How gardening can improve your health
Research has proved what many gardeners have known for generations – that gardening is good for your health!
There are a lot of positive reasons to start gardening. Whether you’re struggling with stress and mental health or trying to be more active, look to gardening to help improve your health.
If you’re a keen gardener or just like to potter in the garden each summer you will most likely already know that gardening is a great form of moderate exercise. After just 30 minutes of pulling weeds, planting new seeds, mowing lawns it’s enough to work your muscles and make you sweat. What you may not be aware of is that gardening can improve your health in many other ways too… Regular gardening is good for the body, mind and spirit and we’re here to tell you why.
Gardening promotes exercise
Potting or planting seeds is a great gentle exercise for all age groups. While gardening and working out in your garden you will be spending a lot of time on your feet and walking around, much like cooking and cleaning you are upping the amount of steps you take and may not even notice! More strenuous tasks such as weeding, digging, raking and pushing a lawn mower is a great way to partake in aerobic exercise and using muscle groups all over the body which can burn a lot of calories and provide a good general workout.
There are many ways to monitor the amount of exercise which we participate in and counting steps is a great way to see how active we are. Try a pedometer app on your phone to track your movement and you may be surprised by how far you’ve walked while gardening, alternatively a fitness band which can read your heartbeat and steps is a great way to keep track.
A study carried out by scientists from Kansas State University involved 53 older volunteers, 25 of whom were gardeners. They were assessed for general physical and mental health including hand and pinch force. The more active gardeners among the volunteers showed the best levels of physical health and all the gardeners had stronger and more nimble hands. Gardening has been said to be as good for you as jogging or swimming! Plus, if you’re spending that much time working outside, imagine how amazing your garden can look!
It has now been scientifically proven that smelling roses and pulling weeds can lower blood pressure and stress, increase brain activity and improve the overall feeling of wellness. The evidence is so compelling that gardening as a health benefit has been given its own name – Horticultural Therapy.
While gardening is by no means a cure-all for stress, anxiety and depression it can help improve mental health. Gardening provides you with the opportunity to be outside and breathe in the fresh air, soak in some vitamin D and connect with nature. Simple gardening tasks help to shift focus from the overwhelming daily stressors and onto simpler, more rewarding tasks.
Many see nature as a place to rest and de-stress, horticulture therapy involves a trained therapist who will work with clients on gardening related activities to achieve specific goals. Therapeutic gardens have even been created and are widely used in schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centres and hospitals.
How gardening can help mental health
The benefits of gardening are endless, both mentally and physically. Spending time in your garden not only improves your garden but can also improve your mental health. Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of Thrive, one of the UK’s leading charities in disability and gardening says “As well as the strong therapeutic value of gardening it can help people connect with others, reducing feelings of isolation. It makes us more active, gaining both physical and mental health benefits.”
Daily gardening can reduce the risk of dementia in older adults as taking care of oneself with regular exercise, a healthy diet and quality sleep reduces stress which can help to keep older brains functioning optimally.
Gardening enhances self-esteem
Knowing that your hard work and dedication can create beautiful flowers, fruit and vegetables gives a great sense of achievement. Being responsible for creating something so beautiful from scratch is a great way to promote self-worth and ability. There’s a lot of natural motivation in gardening, tending to your plants, feeding and watering them to help them survive - you are given a purpose which can enhance self-esteem and give a sense of control.
Gardening can ease stress and improve mood
A perfect way to take your mind off stressful situations. Focusing your mind on gardening rather than other stressors in your life is a great way to eliminate stress and continue to be positive. Pent-up anger and frustrations can be relieved by rigorous chopping and pruning which can improve your mood.
Gardening can promote a speedy recovery from illness
The sight of gardens has been shown to decrease the level of pain and number of post-surgical complications in several studies.
Gardening encourages social interaction
Gardening is a great way to bring people together, especially in nursing homes and rehabilitation centres - residents can be brought together to work on a common goal. Home gardens also encourage socialisation with friends and neighbours with people sharing tips and proudly showing off their handy work.
Gardening is the perfect antidote to the stressful world we live in today, try to spend as much time as you can in your garden - whether it is a simple bit of pottering around or some heavy duty gardening tasks, every little helps. Once you’ve gained a sense of accomplishment from tending to your garden and producing an array of fruits and vegetables, you can enjoy them too. There’s nothing better than eating your home grown produce and being able to stand back and admire the fruits of your labour. Gardening can allow you to live a healthier and happier life.