During long Wisconsin winters, many people peruse seed catalogs as they look forward to getting their hands dirty in the spring soil. This ability to help people think about the promise of spring during the winter doldrums is just one of the positive benefits of gardening. There are many others.

Five orthopedic health benefits of gardening

1. Gardening makes exercising fun. Gardening requires bending, stretching, and weightlifting, which gives people a good workout. Calorie counters estimate working in the garden burns an average of 400 calories an hour.

2. Planting and weeding improve hand strength. Whether you use gardening tools or prefer to feel the dirt and plants with your fingers, the movements associated with setting plants and pulling weeds increase the strength of your wrists and hands.

3. Being outside increases your levels of vitamin D. The warmth of the sun on your skin not only feels good, but it also starts a chemical reaction. The sun’s rays prompt your body to produce the vitamin D you need for healthy bones.

4. Gardening gives your knees and hips a workout. Moving plants, soil, and gardening equipment help you build strong bones and muscles to support your joints. All the bending and lifting you do to tend a garden keeps your tendons and ligaments limber and flexible.

5. Gardening relieves depression and reduces stress. While stress and depression don’t sound like conditions treated at an orthopedic clinic like Bone & Joint, preliminary studies show a relationship between chronic stress, anxiety, and depression and low bone mineral density, which is a sign of osteoporosis.

Other studies report that gardening helps people reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, improve mental health, and promote better sleep.

There are two surprising and promising benefits to gardening.

Caring for plants may help people dealing with chronic autoimmune conditions and mental decline.

Working the soil exposes people to Mycobacterium Vaccae, a form of good bacteria found in garden dirt. Breathing in this type of bacteria while gardening, or ingesting it on vegetables and fruits harvested from the garden, may help combat psoriasis, allergies, and asthma. The bacteria may also help reduce inflammation in the body.

Gardening also involves many mental activities which may prevent cognitive decline. The hobby stimulates dexterity, problem-solving, and sensory awareness, which helps brain health.

Why not try gardening this year?

Your garden doesn’t have to be a 12-by-12-foot vegetable garden. It can be a pot or two of your favorite flowers. Your garden can be as unique as you are.