The connection you have with the natural world tends to be severed by modern living, and many people are starting to recognize the vital role that a connection with the land plays on health and happiness. Gardening has a plethora of health benefits, from exercise and better nutrition to enhanced mental health and stress relief. In fact, some experts say that reviving home gardening could make significant improvements on the health and well-being of entire nations.
Here are the ways that gardening can benefit your physical and mental health.
According to a recent study in the Netherlands, gardening is better for fighting stress compared to other relaxing leisure activities. Two groups of participants were asked to garden or read indoors for 30 minutes after they completed a stressful task. Afterward, the group that chose gardening reported being in a better mood than the group that went to read inside. The gardening group also had lower cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone.
Trading your time on your smartphone or computer for time in the garden is an excellent went to relieve stress. The soothing, repetitive nature of a number of gardening tasks and the rhythms that you can find in the natural environment helps in fighting the negative impact that stress has on your mind and body.
Boost of Emotional and Mental Well-being
According to a 2013 survey by Gardeners World magazine, 80% of gardeners reported that they were “happy” and “satisfied” with their lives compared to 67% of people who do not garden.
Research has also revealed that your mental health may be affected by digging in the soil, which exposes you to beneficial microorganisms that the soil contains. In a Norwegian study, people who were diagnosed with persistent low mood, depression or bipolar II disorder were asked to spend 6 hours a week growing vegetables and flowers. After 3 months, 50% of the participants reported experiencing a significant improvement in depression symptoms. Additionally, their mood continued to improve 3 months after the gardening program ended.
Harmless bacteria commonly found in soil known as mycobacterium vaccae increase serotonin release and metabolism in parts of the brain that control mood and cognitive function – much like antidepressant drugs that boost serotonin do.
When you garden, you get exposure to fresh air and sunshine and your blood gets moving as well. There are many different types of movements involved in gardening, so you get quite a few exercise benefits as well, keeping you fit and strong.
Gardening is far from pumping iron and unless you are hauling wheelbarrows of dirt every day for long distances, it probably will not benefit your cardiovascular fitness much. However, digging, weeding, planting and other repetitive tasks require stretching or strength. This makes them excellent forms of low impact exercise, especially for those who find it challenging to perform vigorous exercise such as older people, those with disabilities or those who suffer from chronic pain.
Experts also state that gardening tasks can help in improving hand strength in older adults. Additionally, a 2012 study found that people who engage in community gardening projects have a body mass index (BMI) that is considerably lower than non-gardeners. This suggests that an active lifestyle does translate into improvement in weight management. Male and female participants who engaged in community gardening were 62% and 46% less likely to be overweight or obese respectively, compared to non-gardeners.
Interestingly, it has been found out by fitness scientists that exercising outdoors makes you exercise harder. This is despite the fact that you perceive the activity as being easier when you compare it to indoor exercise. This could be a potential part of the equation because you may be encouraged to work harder when you are in the garden than when you are in the gym.
[ Read: How Safe Is Gardening During Pregnancy? ]
Brain Health Improvement
According to some research, the physical activity that is associated with gardening can help in lowering the risk of developing dementia.
Two separate studies following people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found that regular gardeners had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia respectively, than those who did not garden, even after taking a range of other health factors into account. While these findings are not entirely definitive, they suggest that gardening’s combination of physical and mental activity may have influenced the mind in a positive way.
Because gardening helps in relieving stress, it can enhance your attention and concentration as well. This allows you to recover from mental fatigue.
As you know, fitness and good mood depends a lot on nutrition as well. When you garden, you grow fruits and vegetables, which gives you access to the freshest and healthiest food you can eat. It is not surprising that there have been several studies that show that people who garden, eat more fruits and vegetables than those who do not.
People who grow food tend to eat healthy, which is important for fitness and overall health, including mental. When you eat healthy, you get the essential nutrients that are required to keep you fit and strong. These nutrients also play a role in your mental and emotional well-being, thus helping to improve your mood and keep your brain healthy and optimally functioning at all times.
Get Gardening Today
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), engaging in moderate-intensity level activity for two and a half hours each week can significantly reduce the risk for high blood pressure, obesity, stroke heart disease, type II diabetes, colon cancer, osteoporosis, depression and premature death. The CDC states that gardening is a moderate-intensity level activity which can help you achieve the two and a half hour goal every week. Also, when you choose gardening as your moderate-intensity exercise, it is likely that you will exercise 40 to 50 minutes longer, which means that you get a good amount of exercise that benefits you both physically and mentally.
If you are considering taking up gardening, it will be one of the smartest decisions you make in life. With so many benefits, you will be doing your physical and mental health a world of good. With the facts given above, you now have more than enough reasons to get your gardening tools out and start gardening today.