"Gardening shifts your focus away from illness and helps you look forward from year to year," says Laura Coar, an avid gardener who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1983.
Benefit #1: Gardening Helps You Relieve Stress
For many, gardening is an emotional and spiritual experience. John Kaczynski of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1995, gets peace of mind from his garden. "I check on my plants every day," he says. "It's peaceful and a good place to think."
Laura savors the private time gardening affords and the connection to something bigger than herself. Growing things is "highly life affirming," she says. "You can make an impact on the world that will outlive you. Plant a tree, and you're leaving a legacy for generations to come. Gardening connects you to the past and to the future."
While it can be an opportunity for solitude, gardening can also offer a wide social circle for those seeking like-minded souls. Garden clubs, community gardens, and Master Gardener programs through state extension services all offer a place to connect with others who have a little dirt under their fingernails. Plus there are all the friends you'll make as you share your homegrown bounty.
Benefit #2: Gardening Helps You Eat Better
When John -- a lifelong gardener -- discovered he had diabetes, he expanded the garden in his backyard. "We eat everything right out of the garden -- tomatoes, peppers, okra, cucumbers, green onions, and strawberries," he says. "Eating fresh food is better for us."
Raising homegrown produce isn't tricky. You can even grow beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, and many other vegetables in containers on your patio. Berry plants and dwarf fruit trees fit into most typical suburban backyards with ease and yield plenty of luscious, lip-smacking returns.
Benefit #3: Gardening Gets You Moving
When Laura was diagnosed with diabetes, she was working as a gardener at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Doctors told her that her job's athletic activity likely saved her life. "Gardening is great because you can participate at many levels of physical activity," she says.
Laura tackles every strenuous backyard project herself. "I dig, I lay pavers, I move the containers around. My husband says I'm an industrious ant," she says. "The best part of gardening is that I'll always be able to do it in some form, no matter how old I am."
John relies on the physical part of gardening to help control his blood glucose levels. "If I discover that my blood glucose is a bit high, I walk out to the garden," he says. "The next thing I know, the level has come down. Gardening makes you move."
Why not join me, John and Laura and just get out in the sun and garden!