Community gardens don't just facilitate friendship and healthy eating -- getting involved in one could also help your weight, a small new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Utah found that people who are part of a community garden are more likely to not be obese or overweight, compared with non-gardeners. Specifically, women gardeners were 46 percent less likely to be obese or overweight, and men gardeners were 64 percent less likely to be obese or overweight.
Researchers noted that the study was conducted only on one Salt Lake City community gardening group, but that the finding "validates the idea that community gardens are a valuable neighborhood asset that can promote healthier living," study researcher Cathleen Zick, who is a professor of family and consumer studies at the university, said in a statement. "That could be of interest to urban planners, public health officials and others focused on designing new neighborhoods and revitalizing old ones."
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Heath, included 198 people who participated in a Salt Lake City community garden. Researchers took down their body mass indexes (a ratio of weight to height; 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal weight, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and 30 or higher is considered obese), and compared them with their spouses, siblings and neighbors.
Researchers found that people who participated in the community garden had lower BMIs than their non-gardening peers. Specifically, women who participated in the garden had a BMI that was 1.84 points lower than non-gardening women -- researchers said that this is equal to being 11 pounds lighter when comparing women who are 5 feet 5 inches tall. Men who participated in the garden had a BMI that was 2.36 points lower than the non-gardeners -- which researchers said is equivalent to being 16 pounds lighter, when comparing men 5 feet 10 inches tall.
"The health benefits of community gardening may go beyond enhancing the gardeners' intake of fruits and vegetables," the researchers wrote in the study. "Community gardens may be a valuable element of land use diversity that merits consideration by public health officials who want to identify neighborhood features that promote health."
Beyond weight, research has also shown benefits in relieving stress and decreasing depression symptoms. For some great tips for growing healthy food no matter your environment, click here. And check out some great produce in season this month below: