Pop Culture

16-year-old wows 'The Voice' judges with her piercing voice. Then she began yodeling.

She just proved how cool yodeling can be.

ruby leigh, the voice

Ruby Leigh on "The Voice"

Few music genres are as polarizing as country music. For the most part, you either love the twangy sounds of honky tonk, or it makes your ears bleed.

And perhaps nothing epitomizes this quite like yodeling (yes, yes, yodeling might have originations beyond country music, but nowadays it is very closely linked with country music).

Generally speaking, yodeling is often seen as something old-fashioned, annoying, even cartoony. More likely to be used as the butt of a joke—similar to bagpipes—rather than seen as the very difficult and otherworldly art form that it actually is.

But every so often, someone comes around to remind us that when done well, yodeling can feel just as dazzling as a Mariah Carey whistle tone.

And that person was 16-year-old singer Ruby Leigh, who left all four judges with their jaws on the floor for her first impression audition on NBC’s “The Voice.”

Hailing from a small town in Missouri, armed with her black guitar that perfectly matched her country western outfit, Leigh began singing Patsy Montana’s "I Want to Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart.”

Almost immediately after she began battling her heart out, judge John Legend turned around in his seat.

But then, when she unleashed her secret weapon, all bets were off.

All three judges, including Gwen Stefani, Niall Horan and country western queen Reba McEntire turned around to see where such a piercing sound was coming from.

Plus…the camera pans over to Leigh’s mother, father and sister overcome with emotion as she lights up the stage. If you watch closely, you’ll even see Leigh’s father tearfully yelling "I told you, Ruby!” It’s seriously a bit of a tearjerker moment.


After Leigh finished her song, Stefani and McEntire both shared a little bit of their yodeling gifts, with McEntire sharing how “flattered” that the young performer honored a tradition passed down in her own family.

We might all have our individual tastes, but sometimes…good music is simply good music. It’s a gift when artists of any kind are able to transcend the limitation of genre or mainstream opinion and truly inspire people. Way to go Ruby.


3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.

“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes


1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)


1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4


1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano


1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics

O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4


1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)


1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics


Americans see gardening changes as 'plant hardiness zones' shift across half the U.S.

Here's a quick tool to find out if your zone has changed due to warmer temperatures.

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash, Map by USDA-ARS and Oregon State University (Public Domain)

The USDA has issued a new Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Millions of American households have a garden of some sort, whether they grow vegetables, fruits flowers or other plants. Gardening has always been a popular hobby, but more Americans turned to tending plants during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for both stress relief and to grow their own food so they could make less trips to the store. For many people, it's a seasonal ritual that's therapeutic and rewarding.

But a shift is occurring in the gardening world. Now, due to rising temperature data, half the country find themselves in a different "plant hardiness zone"—the zones that indicate what plants work well in an area and when to plant them. Gardeners rely on knowing their hardiness zone to determine what to plant and when, but they haven't been updated since 2012.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its Plant Hardiness Zone Map in late 2023, months before people in most of the country start planning their planting. We saw the 10 hottest summers ever recorded in 174 years of climate data between 2014 and 2023, but hardiness zones are actually determined by the coldest winter temperatures each year. Winters are warming at an even faster pace than summers, according to nonpartisan research and communications group Climate Central, but that may or may not be the entire reason behind the zone changes.

The USDA acknowledges that some of the zone shifts could be due to climate change but cautions against using them as hard evidence for it since factors such as improved data collection also contribute to changes in the map.

people planting flowers

Gardening can be a solo or community endeavor.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

"Temperature updates to plant hardiness zones are not necessarily reflective of global climate change because of the highly variable nature of the extreme minimum temperature of the year, as well as the use of increasingly sophisticated mapping methods and the inclusion of data from more weather stations," the USDA wrote in November 2023. "Consequently, map developers involved in the project cautioned against attributing temperature updates made to some zones as reliable and accurate indicators of global climate change (which is usually based on trends in overall average temperatures recorded over long time periods)."

At the same time, Chris Daly, director of the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University that developed the map with the USDA, told NPR, "Over the long run, we will expect to see a slow shifting northward of zones as climate change takes hold."

As an example of zone shifting, Dallas, Texas, was classified as Zone 8a in 2012, when data showed the coldest winter temperature in the city was between 10 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit on average. In 2023, with data showing the coldest winter temps falling between 15 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it's been shifted to Zone 8b.

Some zone shifts resulted in moving to an entirely new zone number, such as Seattle shifting from Zone 8b to Zone 9a. The overall trend was for zones to be pushed northward, but not all areas saw a shift. NPR has a helpful tool here in which you can enter your zip code, see what zone your city was previously in, what zone it's in now, and the temperature changes that caused the shift.

The bottom line is if you have a gardening book with a hardiness zones map printed before 2024, it's time for an updated map. Or check online to see what zone you fall in now to give your garden the best chance of thriving this year.

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.


Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.


Dad had no idea he was auditioning for 'Britain's Got Talent.' He brought the house down anyway.

His two little girls called him up on stage to perform the song he wrote for them.

Nick Edwards had no idea he was going to be singing for Britain's Got Talent until his mom and daughters showed up on stage.

We've seen some moving America's Got Talent stories before, but a recent viral audition absolutely requires a tissue warning. I tried to steel myself in preparation when I saw the "Admit it, we were *all* in tears after this" caption on the Facebook share of it, but I failed.

In a video that's been shared more than 95,000 times, the "Britain's Got Talent" audition shows two tiny little girls onstage with their grandmother. They introduce themselves as "Cally" (age 4) and "Savannah" (age 3) and "Nanny" (their "daddy's mummy") then the girls share that they are there to surprise their dad.

Dad—also known as Nick Edwards—is sitting in the audience. He thought the family was there to watch the audition on a fun outing; he had no idea that they had arranged a surprise audition for him, so when his girls and mom showed up on stage, he wondered what was going on.

A "Britain's Got Talent" spokesperson explained to the Daily Mail how they got Edwards mic'd up without giving away the surprise.

"When Nick entered the Palladium auditorium during ‘BGT’ auditions, he was approached to be part of our ‘gogglebox’ audience and told he would be mic’d up so we could capture his reactions throughout the day as he sat in the audience," they said. “He was totally unsuspecting. We did this so we could mic him up without him suspecting a thing.”

As Edwards tried to figure out what his mom and daughters were doing on stage, Edwards' mother explained to the judges and the audience that he sings a special song to his girls. She said they wanted him to come up and sing it. Naturally, not being prepared for an audition, Edwards was stunned. But the judges sent him backstage to "grab a glass of water" so he could compose himself and get ready.

"They gave me some time to warm up—about 45 minutes in total," Edwards told This Morning. "They gave me my guitar my family brought down on the day, they [producers] said this is the song we want you to sing because we'd seen it on your Instagram."

The song is an emotional doozy, especially if you're a parent. "It's a song I've felt quite attached to so I sing it a lot around the house," Edwards told the judges before he started to sing. Once you hear it, you'll see why he joked about trying to keep from crying while he sang it.

Lovely voice. Beautiful song. Adorable little girls. Not a dry eye in the house.

Tissue, seriously. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The fact that Edwards was able to pull off that audition with less than an hour of preparation was quite impressive. He told This Morning what he was thinking during that prep time.

"If I go out I've got two options here, I either go out and try to own it or I come out and it all crumbles…" he said. "The whole thing just went so quickly. I do remember playing and in a way my fingers started to get a bit jelly, I remember thinking 'this is going to be a big moment for you.' I don't want to stuff it up."

Stuff it up he did not. What a lovely performance, and what lucky little girls to have a daddy who shares his love for them in such a beautiful and creative way.

This article originally appeared on 04.22.22


Terrified, emaciated dog comes to life as volunteer sits with him for human connection

He tries making himself so small in the kennel until he realizes he's safe.

Terrified dog transforms after human sits with him.

There's something about dogs that makes people just want to cuddle them. They have some of the sweetest faces with big curious eyes that make them almost look cartoonish at times. But not all dogs get humans that want to snuggle up with them on cold nights; some dogs are neglected or abandoned. That's where animal shelters come in, and they work diligently to take care of any medical needs and find these animals loving homes.

Volunteers are essential to animal shelters running effectively to fill in the gaps employees may not have time for. Rocky Kanaka has been volunteering to sit with dogs to provide comfort. Recently he uploaded a video of an extremely emaciated Vizsla mix that was doing his best to make himself as small as possible in the corner of the kennel.

Kanaka immediately wanted to help him adjust so he would feel comfortable enough to eat and eventually get adopted. The dog appeared scared of his new location and had actually rubbed his nose raw from anxiety, but everything changed when Kanaka came along.

The volunteer slowly entered the kennel with the terrified dog, crouching on his knees for an easy escape if needed. But the dog attempted to essentially become invisible by avoiding eye contact and staying curled in a tiny ball. It seemed like it was going to take a long time for this nervous pup to warm up.

Before long, he's offered a treat. Success! The brown dog takes the treat, and as minutes pass you can see his body slowly relax, eventually coming to sit directly next to Kanaka for pets. In the few minutes of the video, you see such an amazing transformation that proves this little guy just needed some love.

"It was so cute when he started wagging his tail. You could tell his whole demeanor just changed, and he was happy. Just a few kind words and a little attention. That’s all animals need. Well, besides food. Lol," one commenter says.

"That moment when he starts to realize he's actually safe. That gradual tail wag, and the ears perking, the eyes lighting up. You don't have to be an expert to show an animal love and respect," another writes.

"After that first treat his entire demeanor changed. He went from not trusting you to thinking you may be kind and he could feel less stressed. That was really amazing to see," someone gushes.

This sweet scared dog just needed human connection by someone taking the time to sit with him to know he was safe. Once he was sure the shelter was a safe place, the dog even welcomed those who came to visit him after seeing the video.

"I went to the shelter today to visit 'Bear'! Everyone would be thrilled to hear that he seems very happy and energetic! He has a little red squeaky bone toy that he loves. He licked my hand immediately and rubbed his head on my legs and arms, eager for affection. What a sweetheart," a commenter writes.

Thanks to Kanaka's sweet gesture, the dog, now named Shadow Moon, was adopted and is now living his best life with his new human dad and husky brother. You can follow Shadow Moon's journey on his Instagram page.

This article originally appeared on 12.1.23


A lesson in sustainability from a single trail at the end of the world

A stunning Patagonia trail is getting a major makeover so hikers can enjoy the landscape without harming it.

Photos by Annie Reneau

The Base Torres trail offers gorgeous views through Torres Del Paine National Park.

Shortly after leaving the Punta Arenas airport, our van driver points out the window and says in a distinct Chilean accent, "That's where the Pacific meets the Atlantic." Gazing out at the Strait of Magellan, which I'd only ever seen on a map, it hits home that we are farther south than 99.9% of the Earth's population—quite literally at the end of the inhabited world. Five hours later, after passing herds of emus, flamingoes and guanacos (a relative of llamas), we reach Torres Del Paine National Park, the crown jewel of Chilean Patagonia.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and am no stranger to beautiful places, but Patagonia is on another level. One person here called it "savage beauty," which is a perfect description—raw and rugged mountains, glaciers, lakes, forests, and prairieland on all sides at all times, with barely a sign of civilization. Torres Del Paine offers up close views of Grey Glacier, part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the third largest freshwater reserve on Earth.

jagged blue glacierGrey Glacier, part of the Southern Patagonia Ice FieldsPhotos by Annie Reneau

If there's any place that'll make you fall head over heels for our gorgeous planet, it's Patagonia.

I've come to Torres Del Paine National Park to witness this beauty and to see how Las Torres Patagonia's "10 Volunteers for 10 Days" ecotourism contest played out. Las Torres is a privately owned reserve nestled inside the national park, and as part of their ongoing sustainability efforts, they are rebuilding a hiking trail that leads to the park's iconic granite towers. Las Torres offered 10 voluntourists the opportunity to visit the reserve and help work on the trail. I accompanied the winners during the second week of April—peak autumn color time—to see firsthand why sustainable trail-building matters.

hotel sitting in front of a mountain

The Las Torres Hotel sit s just inside Torres Del Paine National Park.

Las Torres

First, I got to experience the old trail, a 12.5 miles (20 km) round-trip hike to and from Base Torres, the base of the towers. It's not easy, requiring a trek up and down 3,000 feet in elevation, but it is absolutely stunning. Imagine being surrounded by scenery like this with the occasional majestic Andean condor soaring overhead:

mountain views with fall colors

The fall colors in Patagonia were striking against the gray rock.

Photos by Annie Reneau

The hike takes you up mountainsides, through forests, across rivers, past waterfalls and finally up a steep boulder climb.

a river running along a forest

Every lake and river is a different shade of blue, green or gray.

Photos by Annie Reneau

The trek ends at three huge granite towers flanked by a glacier with a bright turquoise lake greeting you like a scene from another planet. This is Base Torres.

large granite towers over a turquoise lake

Base of the towers—Base Torres—at the top of the hike

Photos by Annie Reneau

The Base Torres trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park, and it sees a good percentage of the 250,000 visitors who visit Torres Del Paine each year. The problem is, it was never meant to be a hiking trail in the first place. Carved decades ago by cattle ranchers on horseback, the trail was created before the national park without any real thought to sustainability. Both human use and natural erosion have badly damaged the trail, making it incompatible with the protection and preservation of the natural landscape.

The goal is to make the trail both sustainable and accessible, minimizing human impact on the land while still allowing people to enjoy the park. I had no idea what went into creating a sustainable trail, but there's a lot, from slope to drainage to impact on natural vegetation. Patagonia's weather plays a big role in erosion as well, with strong winds and snowy winters that have to be taken into consideration. The new trail takes a different path than the old one, with a more gradual ascent and more up-close views of the Ascencio Valley and river, and offers a wider and more comfortable climb.

a rocky trail

The old horse trail is eroded and treacherous in places.

Photo by Annie Reneau

The trail rebuild is a huge, collaborative project between Las Torres, the park, international conservation and trail experts (such as Shuswap Trail Alliance and Conservation VIP) and others. For the past two years, both professional crews and volunteers have done the slow, manual labor required to build a trail in the wilderness, and there's still a ways to go.

"It's a colossal job. We need all the help we can get," Las Torres CEO Josian Yaksik tells me. The Las Torres Reserve has belonged to Yaksik's family for several generations, starting as a small, independent farm and growing into a multi-faceted business tied to the national park. Yaksik emphasizes that Las Torres takes responsible stewardship of the land seriously, protecting Patagonia while helping people enjoy it. That commitment becomes more and more apparent the more time I spend talking with the people who live and work on the reserve.

As I learn about the trail project and other sustainability efforts of Las Torres, I'm struck by how their conservation work is driven by two key elements of success: caring and collaboration. Conservation isn't a political talking point here; it's a way of life inspired by caring for such a beautiful place. And that genuine love for the land fuels a shared vision that invites collective action. Back home, we tend to place responsibility largely on the backs of individuals and their individual choices. Here, it's clear that collaborative efforts aren't seen as just nice to have, but rather must-haves in creating a unified system of sustainability.

people using hoes and other tools to build a trail

Volunteers working on the new Base Torres trail (left) and walking the new trail (right)

Photos by Annie Reneau

The volunteers who worked on the trail noted that as well.

"It was eye opening to see how Las Torres along with the other organizations involved took something that is a big task and most hikers don’t blink an eye at, and said this is unacceptable and that they are going to change it," shares Amanda Bjorge, a contest winner from Minnesota. "Seeing the trail that Las Torres and AMA [a non-profit NGO helping with the trail rebuild] are working on, the difference is astonishing. While the old trail is clearly a horse path, the new trail is made with so much careful thought and calculation into not just who will be traveling on it, but the effect that the elements may have on it."

Patricia McGuire says her experience working on the trail showed her how passionate the Las Torres staff are about conservation. "This is the kind of work that requires sharing knowledge and building community," she says. "It’s necessary to spread awareness of why sustainable trails are important in order for the work to continue happening."

"The people of Las Torres know so much about the land and its history, and they’re passionate about it too, which really invites you to immerse yourself in the knowledge," shares Angela Hrari from New York. "A majority of the food eaten at the hotel is grown on the premise to cut down on all the excess waste needed to transport food to remote areas. Every person I met had such deep reverence for the land, ensuring that we were leaving no trace and respecting the wildlife." She adds that the new trail "ensures not only that differently abled bodies are going to have an easier time accessing hikes, but also many people for many generations to come can enjoy this land without the fear of turning it into an at-risk destination."

Jon Moser, from Boulder, Colorado, says it was "amazing" to see the commitment to sustainability in Las Torres's partnerships with conversation groups. "The entire hotel is a sustainability machine, harvesting from their gardens to create their menus, eliminating their use of plastic, and even using glacial runoff to distill their own gin," Moser says. "Because I build trails for a living, this opportunity was obviously an immediate attraction, but getting the chance to be a part of trail construction that has been happening for the past two years was truly special."

Some might wonder: Couldn't people just not go to Patagonia at all and save the tourism impact rather than just trying to mitigate it? Sure. But it's in our nature to explore nature, and we're never going to be able to stop people from traveling to see naturally beautiful places. Sustainability is about balance, which includes balancing human activity with the needs of nature. When done responsibly, visiting and enjoying Earth's wonders can not only nurture a love for our planet, which inspires greater conservation efforts to protect it, but also help us collaborate and learn from one another to improve those efforts as well.

The author was invited to Torres Del Paine as a guest of Las Torres Reserve. Las Torres did not review this article prior to publication.


Gardening might be the most comprehensive workout for your body, mind and spirit

There are so many health benefits to gardening, it's kind of ridiculous.

Photo by Ny Menghor on Unsplash

Gardening is a full-body workout.

May in the Northern Hemisphere means gardening season kicks into full swing. Both expert and amateur gardeners are consulting their Plant Hardiness Zones Map (which has changed this. year, by the way) and heading out to their local plants shops to buy vegetable and flower starters, fillings spots amid perennials that are popping up and seedlings started earlier indoors.

Gardening is an enjoyable hobby for some and a dietary necessity for others, but no matter what motivates you to tend a garden, there's no question that it's good for you. In fact, gardening might just be the best exercise there is for overall health.

Anyone who's worked in their yard knows it's surprisingly physical. We have these visions of old people puttering around in their gardens, but that "puttering" is actually a solid workout. Pulling weeds and digging holes may not give you jacked biceps and a snatched waist, but when it comes to the kinds of recommended exercise that can help you live a longer, healthier life, it's hard to beat gardening.

Here are some of the physical, mental and spiritual health benefits of gardening:

Gardening is good for your heart

The Centers for Disease Control consider gardening an official form of exercise, and according to the Mayo Clinic, you might burn as many calories during a busy gardening session as you do at the gym. It's recommended that people get 150 minutes a week of cardiovascular exercise, so gardening for half an hour five days a week will tend both your plants and. your heart.

Gardening has also been shown to lower stress levels. Chronic stress is a significant risk factor for heart disease, gardening can help mitigate that risk.

woman in gardening gloves squatting next to a garden bed

Squatting and pulling are just two ways gardening works your muscles.

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Gardening works every major muscle group

According to Maryland Primary Care Physicians, "Digging, lifting bags of mulch and pushing wheelbarrows all provide strength training similar to weight lifting, which leads to healthier bones and joints." Such activities work every major muscle group—legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen.

One thing gardening has going for it over other forms of exercise is that most of that muscle work is low-impact, so you get the benefit of a good workout without jarring and stress on your joints.

Gardening can help keep your brain sharp

Those of us who haven't gardened much might assume that it's a pretty basic activity—put plants in dirt, water them sometimes, and voila! A garden. Alas, it's not that simple at all, but the complexity of it actually part of why it's so good for your brain. There are thousands of plants, each with their own specifications for growing and thriving. You have to know about soil composition, you have to take humidity levels, temperatures and sunlight into consideration, and as the weather changes you have to adjust and problem-solve to get the most out of your garden. Perhaps that's one reason why a study found that daily gardening is associated with a 36% reduced risk of dementia.

Gardening is good for overall mental health

In the digital age of constant distractions pulling our attention in a million different directions, gardening can offer a much-needed respite. As Penn State Master Gardener Kayla Oaster writes, "Connecting with the natural world, in general, helps relieve people from attention fatigue. Gardening is a great hands-on experience with nature. Working with the soil, smelling the plants and dirt, feeling the different textures, and seeing all the green foliage and flowers can help relax the mind and ground yourself. When you ground yourself, you reduce stress, anxiety, and even built-up anger."

Psychologist Seth J. Gillihan PhD takes it several steps further, explaining how gardening can help with mental health by helping people practice acceptance of things they can't control (weather, organic growth), moving beyond perfectionism and developing a growth mindset (mistakes will be made), staying in the present (focusing on what's in front of you) and reducing stress.

one person handing another person a bowl of cherry tomatoes

Gardening can help you connect with people.

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

Gardening connects you to community

While gardening is often a solo activity, the hobby of it connects you to a whole community of gardeners who are often happy to share knowledge, seeds, cuttings and more. Additionally, you can share whatever you grow—vegetables, flowers, whatever—with your neighbors and friends. Gardening offers plenty of opportunity to socialize, and having strong social ties is linked to increased resilience to anxiety and depression.

Gardening can be a meditative—some might say spiritual—practice

As you connect your hands with the Earth on the outside, you can also connect with yourself—your soul, your spirit, whatever you want to call your inner being—on the inside. Many people find gardening to be a meditative practice that helps them practice mindfulness and inner peace and connection And there are so many qualities needed for gardening that parallel qualities used in spiritual practice—patience, perseverance, surrendering control, reverence for beauty and more. Gardening means being up close and personal with nature, which can help people feel more connected to the source of life, whatever they perceive or beleive it to be. Many religion's scriptures use plant and garden metaphors to elucidate spiritual concepts, so gardening can help us deepen our understanding of spiritual teachings as well.

If you're looking for a comprehensive exercise that will not only provide a healthy workout for your body but also help sharpen your mind and nurture your spirit, try planting and tending a garden. Just make sure it's large or complex enough for you to reap the full benefits.