Breathing in the fresh air, revelling in the serenity of nature and giving your muscles a mini-workout. Gardening really is a cure-all, a panacea to neutralize the physical and mental strains of modern life. The health benefits of gardening are a hot topic in the horticultural world right now, with several international studies being conducted into the effects that gardening can have on personal wellbeing. But is there scientific proof to back up these theories? And how exactly can gardening improve your health?
1) Gardening Is Almost as Effective as Gym Exercise!
The word exercise usually dredges up mental images of treadmills and cross-trainers, so it may be surprising to learn that that in some cases, gardening is almost as good as going to the gym for breaking a sweat. Getting stuck in to the more physical tasks such as lifting and clearing scrub can be as effective as going to an exercise class, with 45 minutes of heavy gardening burning off as many calories as a 30 minute aerobics session.
Half an hour of general gardening such as digging, mowing or mulching burns between 180-250 calories, not to mention the all-over workout your muscles will get into the bargain. No need to feel guilty for dodging the gym in favour of a good weeding session then!
Source: The Telegraph
2) Lower Your Blood Pressure
Take the pressure off! Simply looking at the colour green triggers a reaction in the nervous system that eases tension in the blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. So, what better way to decompress after a stressful week than to spend your Saturday pottering around the garden absorbing the goodness of the natural landscape? A recent Australian study showed that spending as little as 30 minutes a week in nature was enough to reduce blood pressure.
Source: Medical Daily
3) Get Your Vitamin D!
Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem in the Northern Hemisphere. Better known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because of its abundance in sunlight, this recent vitamin D deficit has been blamed on people living an increasingly sedentary indoor lifestyle, working longer hours in poorly lit offices.
A lack of vitamin D has been linked to multiple cancers, as well as heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Getting out in the garden will help your body soak up those much-needed rays, reducing your chances of vitamin D inadequacy and improving your overall health.
4) Improve Your Mental Health
Given that gardening is considered a hobby, it is a natural conclusion that it would help to improve your mood. What’s not to love about getting out in the tranquil fresh air and connecting with the beautiful world around you? Studies show that gardening eases stress and diminishes the symptoms of depression. Now, for the first time ever, researchers have been investigating the science behind it and have put forward a radical theory. Mycobacterium vaccae, a type of bacteria commonly found in soil, has been proven to elevate the levels of serotonin released by the brain, in turn easing depression. Dig your way to a happier life!
5) Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Dementia and Alzheimer’s is most common amongst people in the 60+ age demographic, and research conducted on people in this age bracket shows that daily gardening reduces the risk of developing dementia by up to a whopping 36%. As if you needed any more reasons to get your shovel out!
6) Eat Your Way to Good Health
Unsurprisingly, horticulture enthusiasts are statistically more open to eating fruit and vegetables than those who don’t enjoy gardening. Growing your own produce is a simple way to boost your health as you have the option of harvesting your crop at the optimal time, ensuring that you are reaping the maximum amount of nutrition. Bon appetite!
Source: Harvard Publications
7) Design Your Garden to Reduce Your Stress
It is largely recognised that gardening lowers stress levels. After all, you’re outdoors, connecting with nature, indulging in gentle exercise. It’s almost a form of yoga! But what about designing the layout of your garden to combat anxiety? Horticulture therapy is a new field of study that focuses on using the act of gardening to dissipate stress while ensuring that the end result also minimizes worry simply by viewing it. Stress reducing gardens incorporate zen principles to create a haven of serenity while boosting your relaxation. Colours, textures, shapes and scents are all considered, meaning your garden will have you on your way to nirvana in no time!
Source: University of Vermont Study
8) Quicker Recovery from Illness
Another wonderful element of horticultural therapy is healing gardens. Healing gardens have been around for centuries, but it is only in recent years that health facilities have taken notice. Many hospitals and rehabilitation centres now offer healing gardens, with programs mainly aimed at stroke and brain injury survivors. Doctors have found that patients who engage in therapeutic gardening experience improved recovery from their illnesses, with strength, flexibility and memory all enhanced.
9) Cut Your Likelihood of Stroke and Heart Attack
Gardening is good for the soul, but what about the heart? Evidence has now emerged that regular time spent tending your garden reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack by 27 % in people over 60, and can prolong life in the same bracket by up to 30%. In fact, when compared with marathon trainers in the 60+ age group, gardening was found to be just as effective at minimizing the chances of heart attack and stroke. All the more reason to embrace those green fingers!
Source: The Guardian
10) Breathe in the Benefits of Gardening
Modern urban areas are prone to traffic congestion and air pollution, meaning the air you breathe is filled with contaminants and fumes. Counteract this by transforming your yard into a leafy retreat. Plants and vegetation take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthesis process, thus cleansing the air of pollutants and toxins. Get your planting strategy right and you will ensure that every breath you take in your garden will revitalize your body and mind.