The Health Benefits of Gardening (By Maria Cannon)
What if you could reduce your risk for obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, and cancer? Now imagine you could do all of that just by going outside and digging in the dirt.
Even if you don’t think you have a green thumb, gardening can be a wonderful way to improve your mental and physical health. Not only can working in a garden provide you with a fun, stimulating physical hobby, studies show it also can improve self-esteem and reduce stress. In fact, look beneath the soil and the health benefits of gardening might surprise you.
Improve Mental Health
When your stress levels elevate, so will your levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and when it raises regularly, you have an increased risk for depression, anxiety and mental illness. Cortisol is released by our sympathetic nervous system, but most people call it the “fight or flight” syndrome. In our fast-paced, over-stimulated society, the sympathetic nervous system works in overdrive. Relaxing, stress-reducing activities like gardening give you a break from our busy, concrete world.
That’s why the repetition of gardening, digging into the soil and breathing in fresh air can evoke a sense of calm and reduce tension.
Enhance Heart Health
Stress and anxiety can impact high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of heart disease. Not only does gardening get you moving, which improves the cardiovascular system, but it also reduces stress, making a double impact on your heart health. Concentrating on planting, working the soil, and caring for your plants means spending time outside in the sunshine, which is shown to be a mood enhancer and a cancer reducer; plus, think of all the healthy food you’ll have right outside of your back door.
Help your heart; people who spend at least 2.5 hours a week doing physical activity, like gardening, can not only prevent heart-related illnesses, but also turn their physical health around.
Boost Brain Power
One study revealed that older people who spent time gardening could reduce their risk for dementia by as much as 36 percent. Gardening encompases many activities that, when combined, keep the mind active and young. Planning a garden, understanding how often to water plants, and keeping the soil fertilized involve critical thinking, strategic planning, math, and science.
Gardening doesn’t just help the elderly with improved mental health; gardening helps everyone with critical mental functions.
Strengthen Your Bones and Muscles
Sitting at a desk all day can cause serious damage to your posture. There are all kinds of jobs and tasks we spend a great deal of time doing that put us into unnatural positions. Gardening gets you moving. Be mindful of your lower back and kneeling, and keep your fingers and wrists stretched, but otherwise gardening is a good activity for stretching muscles. It also can keep your joints flexible and your blood flowing.
Gardening isn’t strenuous activity; anyone can do it with the proper tools and hydration. Even just as little as a few hours a week can make a big improvement in your health.
Sense of Accomplishment and Reward
Watching your garden grow does more than just put food on your table. There’s a substantial sense of accomplishment we can feel not only when we complete something, but, maybe even more so, when we continue something. You can’t just plant a garden and leave it to grow. You have to nurture it, to care for it, and to make it thrive. The feeling you get when you’ve achieved something can be felt day after day when you care for a garden. That sense of accomplishment boosts self-esteem and pride, making you feel happier and more enthusiastic about life.
The health benefits of gardening are much more than just putting fresh, leafy vegetables on the table. The act of gardening can give you a new, active hobby and a sense of purpose in your day-to-day life. The more you care for your garden, the more it cares for you. Ready to begin? Check out these tips to get your garden started.