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5 Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening

It’s a given that growing your own fresh produce is going to be beneficial for your diet, but gardening also improves your health in a number of more surprising ways too!

1. Cardiovascular Health and Strokes

Doctors recommend that the average adult should do 2 to 3 hours of moderately intensive exercise a week, and gardening is an enjoyable, low impact way of getting these hours under your belt, without having to spend hours in the gym or on the treadmill.

A Swedish study in 2013 showed that people aged 60 and over who maintained their own garden or allotment reduced their risk of heart attacks and strokes by 27% and reduced risk their of death from all causes by 30%.

Gardening is a great form of exercise for older people, and even those who suffer from joint pain or reduced mobility can.

The benefits aren’t just to do with remaining active however, the increased intake of vitamin D from moderate exposure to the sun has also been proven to lower the risk of heart disease, bone diseases and various forms of cancer.

2. Brain Health

In one study of 3000 seniors, gardening was shown to reduce dementia by over 35%, with similar studies producing similar results.

Like the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, the reasons why gardening makes such a huge difference is poorly understood, however many scientists postulate that the physical demands of gardening combined with learning, practical thinking and problem solving work together to keep the brain and various cognitive functions active long into retirement.

Gardening isn’t just a great preventative hobby, either, and it has been shown to make the quality of life better for those already suffering from Alzheimer’s. One famous example is Clive West’s award winning garden at Chelsea in 2008, which was deliberately laid out to stimulate and relax Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

Many care and residential homes go even further, actively encouraging resident with degenerative brain diseases to actively maintain their own gardens and flatbeds.

3. Stress Relief

A major study found that 44% of adult Britons suffer from stress, and gardening has been proven in numerous studies to be a powerful stress reliever.

Gardening combats the effects of stress on two fronts, by not only making people active but also giving people a feeling of accomplishment and wellbeing from the satisfaction of growing a plant from seed.

Gardening lowers the amount of cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone”. High cortisol levels have a huge number of health impacts including, but not limited to:

  • Decreased immune function
  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint disease
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Disrupted menstrual cycles
  • Erectile dysfunction

Spending just a couple of hours in the garden each week dramatically lowers cortisol levels, giving you not just a feeling of wellbeing, but the added health bonuses that go along-side lowered cortisol levels.

4. Strengthened Immune System

As we’ve already mentioned, gardening is a great way to get a healthy dose of vitamin D. However, vitamin D isn’t just essential for heart and cardiovascular health, but it helps strengthen your immune system and reduce the number of colds you suffer from.

As well as the natural immunity boost you get from being outdoors in the sun, getting your hands dirty in the soil also gives your immune system a significant boost. Mycobacterium Vaccae is a strain of bacteria that is found in almost all garden dirt. Mycobacterium Vaccae is known as a “friendly bacteria” as it has been shown to reduce allergic reactions, asthma and a number of skin problems and diseases.

Another added bonus of gardening is that many of these friendly bacteria are killed by industrial farming and food preparation methods, which means that by eating your own garden-grown produce, you take in more of these immune boosting bacteria as well as a slew of other micronutrients wiped out of our food by large scale farming.

5. Mental Health

Gardening has such a profound effect on mental health that it is becoming an increasingly common form of therapy for those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Besides the benefits of moderate exercise, gardening gives people a sense of satisfaction, a mental and physical challenge and a true sense of accomplishment that accompanies the work.

Increased body temperature has been shown to have a reaction in the brain that releases lots of “feel good” chemicals and hormones, which means that working hard on a hot summer’s day can do wonders for one’s mood and sense of wellbeing.

However, the benefits of gardening on mental health go beyond problem solving, physical activity and hormones, as the mere act of being surrounded by plant life and greenery has been proven to have amazingly restorative effects. Although not yet fully understood by medicine yet, the regenerative effects of being around plant life has been dubbed “biophilia” by some doctors. We’re attracted to living things and the act of growing and nurturing plant life, which is why gardening is one of the most popular pass times in Britain.

So, while you’re out there tending to the garden or pottering around in your greenhouse you can enjoy the added satisfaction that you are benefiting from a range of health benefits too!