Major health benefits that come from gardening

At times, yard work can feel like a major chore for some. Whether it's beautifying an outdoor landscape or simply putting a few plants indoors, it can seem like yet another to-do in an already busy schedule. But research indicates that gardening on any level can be a major health booster. Continue reading to learn about the major health advantages. 

Better heart and brain health

LIZ-posts wrapped in blog IV (1)Physical activity has long been associated with robust cardiovascular function, and when that's combined with gardening, it can be powerful, according to a study on older adults.

Members of a senior community center participated in a 15-session gardening program over a three-month period, and by the end of that timeframe, they showed significant improvements in blood pressure, oxidative stress, blood lipids, and inflammation. This was true even though gardening is a low-to-moderate intensity physical activity, researchers noted.

Another study, also done with older adults, found similar results in terms of lower cholesterol in addition to one other major outcome: Improved cognitive function. In that research, participants who gardened showed increases in nerve growth in the brain, which affects functionality like memory, concentration, and reasoning.

Sunnier mood

LIZ_posts wrapped in blog (19)Sunshine exposure—with proper sun protection, of course—has been linked to improved emotional health, and when you put gardening into that mix, it may boost those effects.

A study on urban gardeners in Detroit found a range of benefits that included better mood overall and a stronger sense of personal growth. Participants also reported:

  • Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Better management of chronic diseases, including diabetes and hypertension
  • Improved physical functioning
  • Gratitude for the opportunity to help others
  • Weight loss or weight maintenance

Researchers added that for many participants, gardening was their only form of activity, and they preferred gardening to more structured fitness like going to the gym. In terms of mood, participants reported feeling calmer and more peaceful during gardening tasks, giving them a greater sense of mental and physical well-being.

Stronger immune function

LIZ-posts wrapped in blog IV (2)In addition to the benefits of being outdoors in the sunshine and getting more activity, simply being exposed to the microbes in the soil can be beneficial, research suggests. That's one of the reasons why indoor gardening can also offer health improvements.

According to the University of Vermont, soil microbes can help build more resistance to asthma and allergies and create a stronger immune system in general. And the more microbes you encounter, the better: A study looking at short-term exposure to numerous soil microbes found that a diversity of materials can modify immune system markers.

That's likely because immune systems not only adapted to coexist with these microbes but may even require that interaction to function properly, according to the Garden Ecology Lab at Oregon State University. Researchers there note that regular exposure to soil microbes trains the immune system and reduces inflammation—which explains why several studies have found lower prevalence of autoimmune disorders among farmers.

More stress prevention

Perhaps the most important advantage of gardening is how it can reduce both short-term and chronic stress. That's hugely important, considering that research links stress to bigger health risks like:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Change in sex drive
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure

Can these really be prevented through an activity as simple as gardening? Research suggests the answer is yes. For instance, a study in Singapore done during the Covid-19 restrictions found that people who gardened regularly had lower stress levels and higher mental resilience. Those who did gardening tasks daily—even with indoor plants—showed significantly more prevalence of emotional regulation, confidence, and positive thinking compared to those who didn't garden.

Bottom line? Getting your hands dirty on a regular basis seems to be a boon for physical and mental well-being. Plus, your plants will be happier, too.

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