Gardening is not only a popular hobby, but can still be good for our bodies and minds. Numerous studies have directly linked the effects of gardening to a better quality of life. All the results are clear: gardening makes you healthy and happy and can be used as a therapy for a wide range of diseases. Here are 7 reasons why it pays to get active in the garden yourself.
1. gardening reduces stress
A Dutch study tested the stress hormone cortisol , and found that gardening relieves stress better than reading books after a stressful event. It’s not just gardening as an activity that plays a role. Bacteria in the soil can also help combat stress. These bacteria were found to act like an antidepressant and also build a strong immune system. Home gardeners still report that psychological benefits such as stress relief are more important to them than the cultural ties or economic benefits of gardening, regardless of the type or amount of gardening activities they do.
2. gardening is good fitness training.
Gardening makes you healthy, but it also makes you fit. Activities such as carrying planters, digging holes, stretching to weed, and pushing the mower can collectively work every muscle in your body. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control categorizes gardening as moderate physical activity, noting that it can burn more than 300 calories per hour, about as much as dancing. More extensive gardening, such as chopping wood or hauling heavy bags of mulch, burns even more than 400 calories. One study suggests that gardening can help offset age-related weight gain. It also provides other physical benefits, such as improving dexterity and hand strength. Plus, you’ll most likely sleep better after a few hours of gardening.
3. gardening prevents dementia
Gardening is not just a physical workout. It is also good for your brain, especially as a protection against the onset of dementia. Gardening increases cognitive function, and one study found that it could lead to a 36 percent lower risk of dementia.
Gardening not only serves as prevention, but is still used as therapy for dementia patients. Active gardening helps keep people moving, spending time in the fresh air and keeping their brains sharp. Garden therapy already exists as a course of study and is being used in more and more retirement homes.
4. helps to fight chronic diseases.
Just like plants, our bodies need sunlight. As with other outdoor recreational activities, gardening can provide a one-two punch of healthy exercise and sun exposure. Moderate time in the sun is the most effective way to get vitamin D, which affects over 1000 different genes and nearly every tissue in your body, impacting everything from metabolism to the immune system. Vitamin D is linked to positive effects on type 2 diabetes, heart disease, bone health and depression. Your gut may also feel the benefits, as vitamin D is believed to help regulate gastrointestinal distress. Of course, it’s important to take precautions to spend time in the sun safely. Key word – sunscreen!
5. gardening makes healthy and connects people.
Gardening also has a positive effect on our psyche. It connects people and forms a broad community. Thus, it combats the negative health effects of loneliness. This can simply mean interacting with people at the local garden center or sharing gardening tips and successes with an online community. Gardening has direct benefits in places like community gardens, where you cultivate a piece of land with other people. This allows social bonds and support networks to form. This is especially important in urban settings where many residents can suffer from isolation and lack of social support.
6. lifts spirits and boosts self-esteem.
Simply being in nature is good for your well-being, and the effects of outdoor activity are documented mood boosters. Gardening increases positivity and optimism and has been linked to fighting depression and other mental illnesses. So it’s not surprising that spending time in the garden leads to higher self-esteem in adults and children with behavioral problems. A study of emotional well-being associated with shared daily activities, such as walking, shopping and eating out, found that gardening was among the top 5 activities for providing happiness and a sense of purpose. The same study showed that women and lower income participants benefited the most.
7. healthy food for the table
It’s not always easy to eat healthy, but gardening can help. Fruit, vegetable and herb growers have the added benefit of easy access to nutritious food (and control over what pesticides or fertilizers are used). People who grow vegetables also eat them on a daily basis. One study found that children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they are local. Another study found that youth who engage in gardening have greater food literacy. In addition to nutritional benefits, vegetable gardeners in particular reported greater positive emotional impacts than those who engaged in other types of home gardening.
“Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress” – Journal of Health Psychology, June 2010.
“Gardening and age-related weight gain: results from a cross-sectional
survey of Denver residents” – Preventive Medicine Reports, December 2017.
“Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo Study of the elderly” – The Medical Journal of Australia, January 2006.
“Is gardening associated with greater happiness of urban residents? A multi-activity, dynamic assessment in the Twin-Cities region, USA” – Landscape and Urban Planning, June 2020.