There may be a waiting list to get a plot in your neighborhood community garden, but once you’re in, the health payoff is even more bountiful than the armloads of organic fruits and vegetables that you’ll grow.

Community gardeners have significantly lower body fat, as well as lower odds of being overweight or obese, than do nongardeners, says research reported in the American Journal of Public Health (June 2013; 103 [6], 1110–15). Results showed that in women community gardeners, average body mass index was 1.84 lower than in their neighbors, which translates to an 11-pound weight difference for a woman 5 feet 5 inches tall. For men, BMI was lower by 2.36 for gardeners—a difference of 16 pounds for a man 5 feet 10 inches tall. Gardeners were also less likely to be overweight or obese: 46% less likely for women, and 62% less likely for men.

No community garden nearby? Plant a small vegetable garden in your backyard.

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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