6 Ways Gardening Improves Your Life22 July 2015 Linda Ross
It’s no coincidence that gardens have been popping up in hospitals, nursing homes and schools all over the country.
Here we look at the science behind the claims that gardening is good for your mind, body and spirit.
Your very own harvest of health and wellbeing. Photo - Magdanatka/Shutterstock.com
1. Stress relief
A recent study in the Netherlands pitted two groups against one another. Each group was given a stressful task and then an activity aimed at alleviating their stress – one group reading indoors and the other doing 30 minutes of leisurely gardening. Afterwards the gardening group not only reported better moods than the reading group, but they were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Gardening is an excellent way to achieve your target 2.5 hours a week of moderate regular exercise, which helps prevent heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Research at Kansas State University has shown that gardening can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack significantly in those over 60. Whilst I’m not yet 60, I’d wager yesterday’s gardening efforts are equivalent to at least 2 gym classes! It’s a big garden!
3. Brain health
A long-term study that followed nearly 3000 60-70 year olds for 16 years found that those who gardened regularly had a 36% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners. Why does gardening make such a difference? Gardening involves so many critical functions, like strength, endurance, dexterity, learning, problem solving, and sensory awareness that you could argue it’s an all-over workout for brain and body.
My Nan, Graham's mother, and my husband's Pop, both gardeners, lived well into their late 90's and remained as mentally sharp as a new pair of secateurs!
It’s no secret gardeners eat more fruit and vegetables than other people. The freshest, most nutrient-dense food is the food you grow. We never get colds. Maybe it’s because we love our green smoothies (helps to counter-act the champagne), and that our kids graze the garden constantly.
Grazing the garden. Photo - Andris Tkacenko/Shutterstock.com
It’s not just a nice view we’re getting from our gardens. It’s deeper than that. You may recall the story of the two groups of patients recovering from surgery: one group overlooking a garden, the other had only a brick wall to gaze upon. Well, what do you know - the patients with a tree view out the window had a significantly shorter stay in hospital.
This anecdote was supported by the findings of a study done by Texas University were patients with a tree view out the window had a significantly shorter recovery time.
6. Mental health
Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria usually found in dirt has been found to stimulate the immune system of mice. It also boost levels of serotonin, which keeps your mood on an even keel. So contact with soil in the garden makes you happy. What better reason do we need to get those hands dirty?
Gardening requires you to think, learn and be creative. Not only has this shown to prevent dementia in seniors, but also to help with depression and other mental illnesses. Perhaps it’s because of the combination of physical activity, awareness of natural surroundings, cognitive stimulation and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Whatever it is, I’m glad I’m a gardener!
A stress-free existence (almost). Photo - Scott Hawkins
You also save on
No manicures required - just a sturdy nail-scrubbing brush
No need to pay exorbitant gym fees
No need for expensive hobbies. Gardening is much cheaper than sailing (pay attention, husband), safer than hang-gliding, and comes with more benefits than lawn-bowls.