Get your kids out in the garden. It's a great opportunity to teach.

Gyms are shut, travel is limited and we must maintain social distance. But you can get the American Heart Association's recommended 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic and strengthening activities by gardening.

Countless studies have linked regular physical activity with improved joints, increased bone and muscle mass, improved metabolism and immunity to disease as well as enhancing mental health and well-being.

But gardening is so much more than that.

It is relaxing. It provides an outlet for stress relief. It helps create a sense of belonging and connectedness to others and our planet.

Tasks such as digging, weeding, raking, planting and staking plants are good exercise for both upper and lower body strength and are considered moderate-intensity physical activity, comparable to a brisk walk, swimming and biking.

Other gardening tasks that use upper body strength while standing or squatting — such as pruning, mixing soil, planting seedlings, sowing seeds, watering, filling containers with soil, harvesting and washing produce — are low-intensity physical activities.

Gardening can also contribute to good health by providing fruits and vegetables, excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals essential to our health.

Those that grow their own fresh produce tend to eat more fruits and vegetables. Children who help out with gardens are also more likely to try or eat a broader selection of vegetables.

As for mental well-being, the repetitive tasks of gardening can be relaxing and offer mental restoration, stress relief, a sense of purpose, help you put aside your worries and focus on recovery. Gardening can also enhance your ability to respond to and rebound after difficulties. And that’s just what we need in this time of uncertainty.

Plants teach us about patience, delayed gratification (a much-needed skill in this day and age) and nurturing. Gardening also teaches us work habits and an understanding of what it takes to produce food.

Tending the garden offers time for our families to be together, creating fellowship as well as an opportunity to teach our children about life and nature.

Lastly and importantly, gardens and landscapes we tend offer community and social benefits. When we share tools, offer growing tips or lend a helping hand, we make connections to our neighbors and share a sense of pride in what we're doing.

So get out there. Thankfully, many garden stores are still open. Curbside pickup is available. And as luck would have it in this time of uncertainty, it is spring — a season of rebirth — and life in our landscapes and Louisiana is graced with good weather.

For those still going to work and trying to keep this pandemic in check, try to get outside when you get home. Take time to mentally recover by working and being in nature.

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