Health Advocate Blog

Get fit and eat well with a backyard garden

Gardening provides a one-two punch when it comes to helping you get and stay healthy. Not only can you grow delicious, nutritious foods for you and your family to enjoy year-round, but gardening provides a great opportunity to exercise, too!

Gardening as exercise

Spending just 30 minutes a few times a week digging, planting, weeding, mulching, and harvesting can work your entire body, leaving you pleasantly sore and tired after a morning in the garden! The effort you put into the garden is rewarded not only by what you pull out of the ground, but by helping you improve your fitness as well. Pushing a wheelbarrow, lifting bags of soil and raking the yard quickly add up to heart-healthy exercise that burns calories and builds muscle, and when fueled by the fruits and vegetables you grow, it’s a win-win.

Planning your plants

Depending on your local climate, there are a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs that can thrive in your garden. If you’re unsure, visit your local garden center to talk to an expert about what might do well in your area. Here are a few suggestions to consider for your garden as well as ideas to incorporate them into your diet (each plant includes a link to growing tips from The Old Farmer’s Almanac):

  • Blackberries tend to grow easily and do well in many climates. Try them in smoothies or desserts.
  • Green beans do not need to be started indoors, making them a great choice to start outside now.
  • Basil is a tasty addition to many dishes and grows well in summer, especially next to tomatoes. Add some to your baked chicken, a caprese salad or your green beans. It’s even great in lemonade!
  • Cucumbers are hardy but do best in warm weather. These are great in salads or as a snack with other fresh cut veggies.
  • Lettuce can be planted continuously throughout the spring and fall, ensuring you have plenty for salads all season long. Use it to top off your sandwich or make a lettuce wrap as a healthy taco alternative.
  • Squash offers a number of varieties to choose from, and they tend to have particular seasons in which they do best. If you choose a summer squash like zucchini, the skin is edible! Try it in nachos or mixed into burgers! They can even go straight on the grill during summer cookouts.
  • Tomatoes are a very popular choice with many varieties to choose from. They grow easily and often produce a lot of fruit (yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit!), from just a few plants. Tomatoes have a starring role in pizza, salads, and even snacks.

Here are a few tips to help you get started with your garden this season, and don’t forget safety first! The CDC offers some advice to make sure you reap all the benefits of gardening and avoid any risks. Happy gardening and bon appetit!

For Health Advocate members

If you are a Health Advocate member with access to the wellness coaching component of our Wellness Program, your Coach can help you make the most of the active time you spend in the garden and find other ways and recipes to incorporate more of your homegrown produce into a healthy diet.