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Lean and green

01 May 2013

It makes sense that gardening is a healthy activity. It gets your body moving, keeps your mind active, gets you in touch with the seasons and cycles that surround you, and can provide you with nutritious organic food. If you get involved in a community garden, of course, you also reap all the mind and body benefits that spring from being linked with other people. Indeed, now a new study has shown that being involved in community gardens is likely to keep your weight down.

To study this, researchers gathered body mass index (BMI) information on 375 community gardeners. They compared this data to information gathered on the gardener’s neighbours. By doing this they were comparing people who shared the same physical environment, including access to shops and services, economic status and “walkability”. So theoretically the biggest single variable between the two groups would be whether they are part of a community garden or not.

The results showed that female community gardeners had an average BMI that was 1.84 lower than the average for their neighbourhood. For a 165cm-tall woman, that translates to 4.98 fewer kilos that the community gardeners are carrying around. Female community gardeners were also 46 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than other women in their neighbourhood.

For men, the community gardeners had a BMI that was on average 2.36 lower than their neighbours, translating to 7.25 fewer kilos for a 178cm-tall man. Male community gardeners were 62 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese.

Further analysis showed that community-gardening men had a BMI that was 1.33 lower than their brothers and women had a BMI that was 1.88 lower than their sisters.

There could be a lot of factors at play here. It might be the simple boost in nutrition that you get from eating home grown food or it could be all of the life choices that accompany, or flow from, the decision to grow your food in a community setting.

Whatever the root cause of the benefits, to live healthier and lighter don’t leave it too long to get growing.