Green Is Good

The surprising health benefits of gardening

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen Published Oct 10, 2022 16:40:20 IST
Green Is Good Photo: ┬ęgetty images

Gardening offers a lot more than fresh vegetables and flowers. Working in a nice outdoor space can boost your immune system, help you stay fit and sharpen your brain—and that’s just for starters. There are plenty more advantages for mind, body and soul.

It’s a fun workout

Do you find the idea of puttering around in a garden a bit dull? If so, knowing the good it’s doing you physically might make it more entertaining. Planting seeds, pulling up weeds, carrying bags of mulch, moving pots, pushing a lawnmower and other gardening tasks actually provide a whole-body, moderate-intensity workout for adults over 65 years old, suggests a 2014 paper from the American Society for Horticultural Science. Even better, it’s activity with a purpose—one that might keep you in motion longer than traditional exercise.

It sharpens your mind

More than just good exercise for your body, gardening also provides a workout for your brain, according to a 2019 study that appeared in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Researchers measured brain nerve growth factors related to memory in study participants—all seniors—before and after they created a vegetable garden, and found that their levels of brain nerve growth had increased significantly.

It reduces your risk of heart disease

Even though gardening may not involve high-intensity cardio, it still provides heart health benefits. In fact, gardening can contribute to cutting the risk of a heart attack or stroke and prolong life by 30 per cent, according to a Swedish study published in 2013 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The benefits come from the combination of physical exercise and the stress reduction that ‘playing in the dirt’ provides.

It helps you control weight

Mitigating weight gain is a goal for many people, and gardening can help you achieve it, according to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Gardeners have a significantly lower body mass index, as well as lower odds of being overweight or obese, than non-gardeners, the researchers determined. The average weight difference? About five kilograms for women and seven for men.

It boosts your immune system

Having dirt under your fingernails may be a sign of poor hygiene, but scientists say it could also be a mark of good health. Thanks to beneficial bacteria found in soil, gardening may bolster your immune system, helping you get sick less and fight off infections easier, according to research that includes a 2015 study published in the international journal ImmunoTargets and Therapy.

It increases hand coordination and strength

Hand strength, flexibility and coordination are essential for everyday tasks like opening jars, carrying packages, and picking up children. Gardening is a great way to hone those fine motor skills and muscles, according to a 2009 US study from Kansas State University.

It nourishes your spirit

Call it the ‘gardening glow’—working with plants provides stress relief and positive sensory stimulation, suggests an experiment conducted by NASA in 2016. The scientists found that planting and nurturing seeds, even in small pots, lifted astronauts’ moods and eased their stress in the severe environment of outer space. And if gardening can do that for astronauts, it should be more than good enough for those of us who watch them on TV.

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