Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Plant health equals human health

Gardening plants does wonders for your own wellbeing since the physical exercise can contribute to a healthy weight and blood pressure levels, and just interacting with plant life can improve your mood and mental health.

Plants make up 80% of the food we eat and produce 98% of the oxygen we breathe.

Plant health equals human health.
Women farming cassava in Sierra Leone.

The United Nations has declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health.

Plants are the source of the air we breathe and most of the food we eat, yet we often do not pay
enough attention to keeping them healthy. This can have devastating results. Up to 40 percent of food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases annually. This leaves millions of people without enough food to eat and seriously damages agriculture the primary source of income for rural poor communities.

Plant health is increasingly under threat. Climate change and human activities have altered ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating new niches where pests can thrive. At the same time, international travel and trade, which have tripled in volume in the last decade, can quickly spread pests and diseases around the world, causing great damage to native plants and the environment.

As with human health, protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost-effective than dealing with full-blown emergencies. Plant pests and diseases are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and managing them is time consuming and expensive. Prevention is critical to avoid the devastating impact of pests and diseases on agriculture, livelihoods and  African food  security.

Nature has a huge impact on health and wellness. Here's how tending to your garden will benefit you in the long run.

Gardening burns many calories.

Good news for those who already spend hours planting; gardening is considered moderate-intensity exercise. You can burn about 330 calories doing one hour of light gardening and yard work more than walking at a moderate pace for the same amount of time according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men and women who participated in a community gardening program had significantly lower BMI than their otherwise similar neighbors, according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

It can lower your blood pressure.

Just 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity most days of the week can prevent and control high blood pressure. In fact, The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends gardening or raking leaves for 30-45 minutes as examples of how to hit that recommended amount.

Spending time outside in green spaces is good for your bones.

When you are outdoors and your skin is exposed to the sun, it prompts your body to make vitamin D. This vitamin also found in fish and fortified foods like milk helps your body absorb calcium, a mineral essential for bone formation, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Growing your own food can help you eat healthier.

Besides the physical exercise, you will get tending to a vegetable garden, a productive plot can also promote a better diet by supplying fresh, healthy produce. The Dietary Guidelines recommends eating at least 2 cups of vegetables and 1½ cups of fruits per day to get necessary nutrients and reduce risk of chronic disease.

However, only 1 in 10 Americans adults meet those recommendations, according to the CDC. Gardening helps people develop a lasting habit of eating enough fruits and vegetables though, according to 2016 research from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

This may work not only by providing fresh veggies but also making it more likely for children to try foods they may not have eaten before, research from the American Society for Horticultural Science theories.

Gardening can relieve stress.

Gardening is positively correlated with a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms, according to a 2017 meta-analysis in Preventive Medicine Reports that looked at 22 different case studies. In fact, some hospitals even use planting and flower arranging as a type of rehabilitation for people recovering from injuries, strokes, surgeries, and other conditions. NYU Langone's horticultural therapy program helps patients rebuild both their physical and mental health, Fried says.

It can provide a source of community.

You do not have to weed alone nor should you. People who worked in allotment gardens had significantly better self-esteem, total mood disturbance, and general health compared to those who did not garden, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Public Health.

Even better, it's something almost anyone can partake in. Fried runs a horticultural therapy group for Alzheimer's patients as an activity for them does with their caretakers and families. Gardening can make you happier.

The act of growing plants may also help boost your mood.

The 2017 meta-analysis also linked gardening with increases in quality of life and reductions in mood disturbance. This may have something to do with how it changes your outlook. "The thing about gardening is that you have to have faith in the future," Fried says. "Growing something green, something real, something alive, is a hopeful thing to do."

Wise African Proverb

Wise African Proverb

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