Sankofa Garden Homes: Home gardens promote a healthy life

Sankofa Gardening Homes

As we begin our second year of the Sankofa Garden Homes articles, I would like to shift our focus for this article from the garden itself to the gardener. Yes, the gardener you and I. Beyond providing us with healthy food to eat how does our garden help us to main our daily health?

While you may not be aware, there is a growing body of research and practitioners who focus on how gardens help us maintain healthy lives beyond simply providing healthy food. While many of our “Africans who Built America” ancestors, who were brought to America through slavery and worked for no pay and later who worked during Jim Crow for little pay, developed strong bodies and minds in the fields and gardens they worked in despite the conditions they worked under. This is evident through their endurance and skills that built America and the many inventions they created during these periods of history. As “Descendants of Africans who Built America” we often only focus on the negatives of these periods of our history. I submit, we would do well to extract the positive elements of these difficult times and glean the elements that are being shared today in the name of the “growing green movement.”

Being a people who have always “grown greens,” the garden should not be a stranger to us today. But because many of us have equated growing food or cotton with slavery and Jim Crow, we have left the fields and gardens and as a result left behind the healthy benefits that they can provide us today.

I challenge you in the spirit of Sankofa, to reach back and fetch what we left behind so that we can reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. As African Americans, we suffer from some the highest rates of blood pressure, cancer, obesity and Alzheimer’s. Many of these diseases can be reversed if we returned to the garden again. Not only would we be eating better, we would also be engaging our spirits, mind and bodies in a way that would develop a holistic way of living.

We would not have to spend additional money on gym fees or exercise equipment. We need but put on our garden clothes and shoes and walk out our front or back door into our waiting garden and begin a daily regiment of spiritual, mental and physical development.

Like any exercise, make sure you stretch before you begin your garden workout. Over a period time you will begin to feel the difference in your flexibility, range of motion, strength and endurance. Don’t be surprised when you begin to lose those additional pounds you’ve been trying to lose.

With health in mind you will begin to approach your gardening with a sense of “mindful gardening.” What I mean is, you will be more aware of everything you are doing that benefits your total well-being, breathing, bending, stretching, lifting, hauling, digging, pulling, twisting and reaching. Being mindful of these and other actions will help you perform each action properly so that they benefit your overall health.

It is important that you stretch and breathe deeply before and after gardening to help reduce injury. Remember you are exercising in your garden.

The Feb. 1, 2017, edition of the Reader’s Digest article, 10 Surprising Ways Gardening is One of the Healthiest Things You Can Do gives insightful health tips. Here is summary of the tips:

  1. Makes you love veggies you thought you hated. People who learn to garden are not only far more likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but they also enjoy eating them more.

  2. Helps you lose weight. Weight loss is the holy grail of heath for many people and gardening can help you achieve that goal. Gardeners have significantly lower body mass index, as well as lower odds of being overweight or obese.

  3. Provides a great workout that feels more fun than work. Carrying bags of mulch, pushing a wheelbarrow, hoeing rows, picking weeds, planting seeds, toting equipment, shoveling manure, moving pots, pushing a mower and building containers provides a whole-body workout for your heart and your muscles.

  4. Nourishes your spirit. Call it the “gardening glow” – working with plants provides serious stress relief and positive sensory stimulation.

  5. Cuts your risk of heart disease. Even though gardening may not be a high-intensity cardio sweat fest, it’s still providing powerful heart health benefit. In fact, gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke and prolong life by 30 percent.

  6. Helps slow climate change. When it comes to reversing or stopping climate change, there’s a lot you can do on an individual level … Gardens provide vital green space to offset all that asphalt, reduce greenhouse gases, lessen your need to buy things, allow you to recycle kitchen waste and many other positives for our planet.

  7. Boost your immune system. Having dirt under your fingernails used to be a sign of poor hygiene, but these days scientists are saying its’s actually a mark of good health. Thanks to beneficial bacteria found in soil, gardening can improve your immune system, helping you get sick less and fight off infections easier. Working in the garden can also help prevent certain allergies and decrease the severity of a reaction.

  8. Increase hand coordination and strength. Hand strength, flexibility and coordination are essential for everyday tasks like opening jars, and developing other fine motor skills and muscles.

  9. Gives you better self-esteem. The health effects of gardening were surprised to note that as the gardener’s skills increased their self-esteem skyrocketed along with their health.

  10. Sharpens your brain. Gardening isn’t just good exercise for your body, it also provides a healthy workout for your brain. Scientist found that regularly working in the garden is a powerful tool for protecting cognitive health, increasing brain volume and cutting the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent.

Read the entire article and related research for more information on garden health.

Now that you know the health benefits of gardening it’s a great time to get your garden started. Read the Aug. 9 Sankofa Garden Homes on The Dallas Examiner website at http://wwww.dallasexaminer.com and start a healthier lifestyle today.

Keep Growing and Stay Healthy!

Sankofa Education Services is provided by Clarence Glover, known as Professor Freedom, for the purpose of: “Taking the chains off our brains, so our minds can work.” He can be reached at clarence gloverjr@aol.com.

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