The health benefits of gardening might surprise you
Gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 30% in adults over age 60, according to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Did you hear about the gardener who had a wheelbarrow full of four-leaf clovers? He was pushing his luck.
Luck might be one factor in gardening, including a gardener’s good health, but the health benefits of the activity are well-documented far beyond luck.
Following are effects of gardening on our health, some of which might be surprising.
- People who garden regularly have a significantly lower body mass index than non-gardeners, according to a 2013 study published in American Journal of Public Health.
- In the same study, the average weight loss was 11 lbs. for women and 16 lbs. for men after a year of participating in a community vegetable garden.
- Gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 30% in adults over age 60, according to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
- A 2016 Harvard study involving more than 120,000 women in the United States found that exposure to a green natural environment makes people live longer and lowers the mortality rate by 12%.
- Kids who were introduced to gardening ate more fruits and vegetables, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Gardening provides a whole-body workout, according to the American Society for Horticultural Science. “The goal-oriented activity entices you to stay in the workout for a longer time and therefore reap more benefits of the aerobic activity.”
- Working with plants provides serious stress relief, demonstrated by a 2016 NASA study by scientists who discovered that working with plants kept astronauts sane and happy in the severe environment of outer space.
- Exposure to the beneficial soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, enhances the human immune system, reduces inflammation, and aids in stress resiliency.
- Hand coordination and strength are increased by gardening activities like planting and pruning.
- Gardening can restore faith in the future because it requires a leap of faith, trusting that our efforts will produce growth and change. When that faith becomes reality, it helps carry hope and optimism into everyday life.
- Gardening sharpens the brain. In a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers measured brain nerve growth in study participants, all older adults, before and after they created a vegetable garden and found that their brain nerve growth had increased significantly.
- Gardeners become lifelong learners because there’s always something to learn about new plants, varieties and techniques.
- Daily gardening can lower the risk of dementia by 36%, according to a 2006 study published in the National Library of Medicine, in which researchers tracked more than 2,800 people over the age of 60 for 16 years.
- In a multi-year study published in 2011, people with depression participated in a gardening intervention for 12 weeks, after which researchers measured several aspects of mental health, and found that all were significantly improved.
- Numerous studies have shown that working with plants is an effective rehabilitation tool for those recovering from addictions.
- The health effects of gardening are both immediate and long term.
In the studies referenced, the term “gardening” generally refers to activities in which people grow, cultivate, and take care of plants, flowers, vegetables, lawns and landscapes. How much time daily or weekly should a person devote to gardening to implement its health benefits?
- The National Institute of Health recommends gardening for 30 to 45 minutes three to five times a week.
- The Journal of HortTechnology recommends 30 minutes of gardening activity on most days, preferably all, during the growing season.
- The Center for Disease Control recommends 2.5 hours of moderate gardening activity each week to help reduce the risk of many health problems including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.