The Amazing Health Benefits of Gardening
Gardening can provide us with beautiful plants, pleasant aromas and delicious fruits & vegetables, especially in the summertime! But did you know there are significant physical and mental health benefits to gardening as well? Horticultural therapy (engaging in gardening for its therapeutic benefits) is growing in popularity and it is easy to see why!
Given the reciprocal link between our mental and physical health, we know that maintaining a healthy life requires us to look after our mind as much as our body (and vice versa). Gardening is a rewarding activity that can positively improve both your mental and physical well being, contributing to a healthy and less stressful life.
10 Health Benefits of Gardening
To spur you on to get your hands & knees dirty in the garden this summer, here are 10 proven health benefits of gardening:
1. It is an effective form of stress relief
Gardening can be extremely relaxing, but you don’t just need to take our word for it. There is evidence to prove that gardening is an effective form of acute stress relief.
In one study, two groups were made to perform a stressful task and then were assigned to either read for 30 minutes, or garden for 30 minutes. The group who gardened had significantly lower levels of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) after 30 minutes than those who read!
The two groups were also asked about their mood after the experiment. A ‘positive mood’ was completely restored after gardening, whereas mood levels deteriorated in the group that were reading. So there you have it, gardening is a more effective form of stress relief than reading!
2. It can give your immune system a boost
Spending time outdoors and being exposed to the sun is a great way to increase your levels of vitamin D, crucial for the regular functioning of your immune system.
Not only will you absorb more vitamin D, but experts also believe that there is a friendly bacteria in soil, Mycobacterium Vaccae, which you unknowingly inhale when rooting around in the garden. This is believed to have a number of positive effects on your immune system.
3. It improves your physical strength
While it is not quite a substitute for bench pressing at the gym, gardening can be a great way to improve and maintain strength. Especially for those who perhaps don’t typically get much exercise.
All that digging, raking, weeding, cutting back hedges and planting is great for your muscles. Your hands, arms, back, shoulders, legs and core will all benefit. The best bit about exercising in the garden is that it doesn’t feel like exercise, you can strengthen your muscles while in a zen state of mind!
4. It can reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke
A study that took place over a 12 year period has shown that gardening regularly can cut your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke by nearly 30%. A moderate session in the garden offers the same benefits as a light cardiovascular workout.
Furthermore, as we mentioned above, being out in the garden is a great way to increase your levels of vitamin D. Those with low levels of vitamin D are more prone to dying of heart disease and other causes.
5. It is effective in treating depression, anxiety and other mental health illnesses
Any keen gardener will tell you that getting active in the garden feels therapeutic. We can confirm that there is evidence to back up their claim.
Horticultural therapy is a fast growing field (pardon the pun). It focuses on the therapeutic and mental health benefits that gardening can bring and has been known to help in cases of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other mental health illnesses too.
The brilliant charity Thrive use horticultural therapy techniques to improve the lives of those who have been affected by disability, ill health or loneliness.
6. It encourages you to eat your 5 a day
Fruit & vegetables never taste better than when you have grown them in your own garden. The flavour is enhanced by the sense of achievement that you have planted and nurtured the food yourself.
If you have little ones, this is a great way to get them eating healthier food. A study among children has shown that they were 5 times more likely to eat fruit & veg if they had grown it themselves.
7. It helps you lose weight
Trying to shed a few pounds? Before you jump on board the latest fad diet, gardening might be able to help you achieve your goals. The combination of exercise and encouraged healthy eating mentioned above, can do wonders for your waistline.
Research in America has shown that people who regularly participate in gardening have a lower body mass index and lower odds of being overweight, than non-gardeners.
8. It stimulates the brain
Gardening is not only a workout for the body – It is a way to train your brain too. It incorporates problem solving, stimulates your senses and keeps you in touch with your surroundings.
There is growing evidence which backs up the idea that gardening trains the brain. One thorough study which followed over 3000 adults for a period of 16 years, showed that daily gardening can reduce the risk of dementia in the future by as much as 36%.
9. It can improve your social well being
Community gardening is a great way to enjoy all the benefits of gardening in a social environment. This is especially helpful for elderly people who suffer from loneliness, or those who do not have much social interaction on a day to day basis due to a disability.
A community garden is a plot on private or public land where people can get together to grow plants, fruits and vegetables for the benefit of the wider community. They provide an excellent opportunity to socialise, exercise, educate and enjoy the surroundings. If you feel this is something you would enjoy, why not find out how to set up a community garden of your own?
10. It is great for the environment
Climate change impacts our health & well being as it is the single biggest threat facing our planet. However, as this study proves, gardeners can play a crucial role in reducing global warming.
Trees and plants convert carbon (a greenhouse gas) into oxygen, meaning that the more we plant, the better. In fact, experts say that planting trees is the most effective way that we can reverse climate change.
As well as this, by growing more of your own food, you rely less on having to buy imported food, which likely comes in plastic packaging.
Get the right equipment, hire a skip & begin!
If you didn’t already have the gardening bug, we are sure you will do now! There are so many benefits to getting out in your garden more and, as we are coming up to summer, what better time to start than now?