There is no way to deny the benefits we receive from gardening just by the foods we cultivate or the flowers and fauna we get to enjoy in our gardens. If you have a large fruit and vegetable garden, it will over flow your kitchen with marmalades and jams, tomatoes, beans, ginger and garlic, potatoes, onions and whatever else may strike your fancy! Gardening offers other less visible, and yet equally supporting benefits. Why do you think that gardening is now beginning to get included in prisons, nursing homes, as well as community centers for the old, homeless or abused populations along with at-risk youths? It all has to do with the feeling of well being you achieve from a rigorous weeding and pruning session and the benefits it has for your health and mind.
Here are a few!
1. Stress relief along with a self esteem boost
A study conducted by Dutch scientists asked two harmonious groups to complete one pre-defined stressful task. After the task was completed, one of the groups was instructed to garden for around 40 minutes, while the second group was told to read indoors. Afterwards, tests were conducted and the gardening group reported better moods along with lower cortisol levels when compared to the reading group. Cortisol is a hormone that is produced when a person is under stress and it influences your mood along with a lot of other chronic ailments such as immune function deficiency, tendency to gain more weight, memory depletion, and heart disease.
2. Heart health benefits and smaller stroke risk
Regular gardening is just one of the many ways available to achieve a target of 2.5 hours of moderately intense exercise weekly. Along with this, gardening provides you with a reward and motivation to go ahead and do it instead of jogging on a treadmill like a hamster on a wheel! For those who are above 60 years of age, gardening has been known to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks by 30%. How can such old people garden? Here is the answer: they use raised flower beds and patches of land on which they do not have to bend. Along with this, exposure of around 10-15 minutes per day with no sunscreen will help your body produce vitamin D which helps us ward off osteoporosis, heart diseases, as well as cancers.
Try fitting in 15-minute stretches of gardening at various sunlight filled hours to ensure that it does not take away from your schedule and you still gain the numerous benefits associated with the activity.
3. Hand strength and dexterity
With age, thinning dexterity and strength based in our hands gradually narrows the ranges of activity that are possible for us. Gardening helps keep those important hand muscles vital without any sort of exercises. Research has resulted in the conception of rehabilitative programs that are for stroke patients and include various gardening tasks as it is a productive way of helping them rebuild strength in the hands. However, there are things you need to be aware of. For instance, stressful gardening can lead to repetitive stress injury, tendonitis, or even carpal tunnel syndrome. Practicing hand-healthy gardening is a must by using simple warm ups, body positioning as comfortably and ergonomically as required, along with changing the tasks regularly before straining becomes evident. Alternatively, using your dominant and non-dominant hands will keep the strain off one hand as well as involve your brain in processing while keeping it healthier.
4. Increased brain health along with reduced Alzheimer’s risk
A long term study that followed 3,000 people for nearly 16 years tracking each and every mental development, found that people who gardened regardless of anything else in their lives, had a reduced risk of dementia by 36%! Alzheimer’s is known as a highly mysterious disease as the factors that influence its occurrence and development are poorly understood. But this relation could be due to the fact that gardening involves so much of ourselves: our strength, our endurance, our dexterity, our learning, our problem solving skills, and our sensory awareness.
5. Immune system regulation
One of the funniest coincidences, the dirt under your nails is helpful to you as it has friendly bacteria! Found commonly in garden dirt and ingested via breathing or on produce, the Mycobacterium vaccae helps fight allergies, asthma, and psoriasis. A majority of these illnesses are due to a weak immune system and hence mycobacterium vaccae helps strengthen the immune system. It also helps relieve symptoms of depression and helps us lead a healthier and happier life.
6. Depression along with mental health
A morning routine around fresh green plants and multi-colored flowers is well known for the “lift” it brings to anyone’s day. But is there any medical proof? This can be found in the horticultural therapy field that is going strong and providing positive results for patients suffering from depression and other related mental illnesses. Numerous benefits emerge from a varied combination including physical activity, a healthy awareness of the natural environment, cognitive stimulation, and the satisfaction received from the work. You can build up the therapeutic aspects of your garden by aiming for a grouping of food produced (vegetables as well as fruits), scented, as well as flowering plants to allow all your senses to flourish. By adding a comfortable chair or seat in the garden, you can relax and enjoy your hard work and marvel at nature when you need to take a break.
All this hard work can lead to heat stroke and dehydration so ensure you are drinking enough water as well as keeping an eye on the signs of fatigue your body is showing. By having various types of plants like we suggested above, you can enjoy the ‘growing’ view of your garden; one day one plant may blossom and the next another one may bear a fruit. The excitement of what you’ll see today will keep your mind fresh and lively.
A famous biologist named Edward O. Wilson termed this phenomena “biophilia.” It’s when we are instinctively drawn towards other living and growing things – to be a part of the web of life.