How keeping your garden green can also keep your heart healthy

Feb 16, 2012, 8:14 a.m.

Believe it or not, heart health and longevity of life often has more to do with your outlook than simply with how many miles you can do on the treadmill without passing out or requiring 10 hours of sleep to recover. And your exposure to nature, whether accomplished by spending time tending to a backyard garden or simply filling your home with living greenery, can be as beneficial to your health as a well-rounded diet. Sure, cardio is necessary. But did you know that gardening can have an equally beneficial impact on your heart health and your state of mind the older you get? Even indoor gardening has its benefits -- so if you're a city dweller with no backyard to call your own and landscape into a bustling garden, you've no longer got an excuse.

There's a word that's known well among lovers of nature and the doctors who study its positive effects on the human mind and body. That word is biophilia, and it's the term that's been assigned to describe people who feel a powerful love for all living things. There's a school of thought propagated by Edward O. Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize Winning naturalist who came up with the word, that believes every single one of us is inextricably linked to nature in a way that can't be replicated by the trappings of modern life. Wilson and others of his ilk also believe strongly that surrounding ourselves with nature can be a powerfully restorative thing that benefits not only our psychological state of mind, but that can also lower blood pressure and boost our body's immunities from disease.

Gardening has been found to be one of the most helpful activities for achieving greater health, and it's no secret that there's plenty of good to the physical activity involved with it. By getting out there and getting your hands dirty and flexing your muscles as you go about the process of planting and pruning, you're putting your body to work. But as science has proved and continues to prove, the meditative benefits of being up close and personal with nature are just as important to general health and longevity as the physical act of gardening. If you're one of the aforementioned many that doesn't have the resources to create and tend to your own garden, consider any one of the following alternatives to help bring a valued peace, tranquility, and improved health to your life.

Take up indoor gardening. You might be surprised at what you're capable of accomplishing without the benefits of a backyard, in the comfort of your very own living room.

Spruce up your home with plants and flowers. Just the presence of placing both in your immediate living area can improve your physical, emotional, and mental well-being dramatically.

Buy wall art with a focus on natural beauty. Some people buy posters of city skylines to liven up a dull room, but if you're really interested in maximizing your health benefits, simply hanging a poster of a beautiful garden on your wall can work wonders on your physical well-being.

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