Gardening and its impact on physical and mental health

    Nature has long been known as a place for humans to find healing and tranquility. Perhaps, because of the relaxing qualities associated with it. Moreover, under the umbrella term of nature – gardening, in particular, is associated with the feeling of reward and mental clarity. It is said to have many physical benefits as well.

    Gardening is not only gratifying but an excellent source of fresh produce in the case of food gardening. There is always a task, big or small from soil preparation to the joy of harvesting during the growing season. These tasks can serve as a great physical activity, and if you have ever spent a summer gardening, you will know what we’re talking about.

    There has never been a better time to use gardening for exercise – many community leaders in Michigan such as the Michigan State University Extension are working to promote opportunities of urban agriculture, such as private gardens and private gardens. However, the question poses – how beneficial is this old age agriculture tradition to your health?

    According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), spending 2.5 hours each week participating in moderate-intensity level activity can reduce the risk of premature death, colon cancer, depression, stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Nonetheless, gardening is considered as a moderate-intensity level activity by the CDC and can easily help you achieve the 2.5-hour goal easily. Furthermore, you are more likely to exercise 40-45 minutes longer on average if you choose gardening as a moderate-intensity exercise rather than activities like biking or walking. But gardening does so much more than give us a workout that contributes to disease prevention.

    An article published in the Journal of Health Psychology, “Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress” states that gardening leads to decreased levels of cortisol levels which can “promote relief from acute stress.” A similar study reported, “Allotment gardeners reported significantly less perceived stress than participants of indoor exercise classes.” Venturing outdoors to the various community gardens you are not only becoming healthier but are also assisting in keeping the community vibrant in the process.

    Here are some surprising ways gardening improves your health:

    The decrease in health problems

    As reported by Gardening Matters, a non-profit organization of Minneapolis, an increase in the nearby green space by ten percent was found to decrease the complaints associated with a person’s health, equivalent to a five-year reduction in that person’s age.

    Helps prevent illnesses like a coronary disease

    It is recommended to exercise both arms and legs for the prevention of illnesses like coronary disease. Nonetheless, while most everyday activities only involve the use of arms, gardening is a great way for the incorporation of the entire body while exercising. A Stockholm study revealed that regular gardening cuts the risk of stroke and heart attack by up to 30% for those over 60.

    Just ten minutes of gardening each day will expose you to enough vitamin D, to reduce the risk of heart diseases. Low levels of vitamin D have been said to increase the risk of heart diseases by two folds.

    Higher test scores among students

    Fresh air can help prevent Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) according to the journal Biological Psychiatry and result in higher test scores among students. According to another study, daily gardening reduces the risk of dementia by 36%, representing the single biggest risk for reduction of the disease. The study followed nearly 3000 older adults for a span of 16 years, assessing a variety of lifestyle factors and tracking all kinds of incidences associated with dementia.

    Nonetheless, the risk reduction was estimated at 47% in another study. The factors responsible for the progression of Alzheimer’s remain mysterious and poorly understood. However, the involvement of critical functions including sensory awareness, problem-solving, learning, dexterity, endurance, and strength are likely to represent its benefits and the synthesis of various aspects.

    Gardening is a stress reliever

    In recent years, gardening has emerged as a scientifically proven stress reliever. Stress can worsen pre-existing conditions in the body and cause heart attacks, stomach aches, headaches, and irritability.

    In an experiment published in the Journal of Health Psychology, gardening was compared to reading as stress relieving activity. The experiment found that subjects who were exposed to gardening experienced a more significant decrease in their levels of stress when compared to the subjects who were assigned to read. Gardening reduces levels of cortisol “the stress hormone,” in the body which may influence more than just our mood.

    Elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to everything from heart disease, learning problems, obesity, and reduced immune function.

    It improves your diet

    In addition to the several health benefits, gardening also increases the value of the property and saves you money when shopping for groceries. There is no reason to not enjoy the outdoors with so many options and resources by growing a beneficial and vibrant garden while getting your exercise in the process.

    Access to unprocessed and fresh food right in your background is not the only reason gardening is good for you. It is a given fact that growing organic vegetables improve your diet.

    Depression and mental health

    When we surround ourselves with greenery, we are getting a lot more than just a pleasant view. The sensory experiences associated with the “nice view” stir regenerative processes in our mind, body, and soul. The serenity associated with green trees and plants has been associated with alleviating depression.

    The bacteria commonly found in the soil Mycobacterium vaccae has also been found to alleviate symptoms of allergies, asthma, and psoriasis. “Horticultural therapy” is giving proven results for patients suffering from depression and other mental illnesses because of the physical activity and therapeutic properties of the natural surroundings.

    Last words

    The benefits of gardening appear to spring from a combination of cognitive stimulation, awareness of natural surroundings and physical activity. The evidence is clear: spending too much time indoors is to blame, and little spurts of activity rather than prolonged sitting are necessary for your health.

    Alycia Gordan
    Alycia Gordan
    Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing.

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