The Health Benefits of Gardening
By Uma Campbell
Many people choose to take up gardening because they enjoy seeing (and eating) the fruits of their labor once their plants begin to grow. But the beauty of blooming flowers and the taste of organic home-grown produce are not the only rewards that can be reaped from gardening. So what are these other, “hidden” benefits of gardening?
1. Gardening Improves Mental Health
Numerous studies have shown that gardening can drastically improve mental health. One study conducted in Norway tested how gardening affected people with depression or bipolar disorder. After three months of gardening for six hours a week, the majority of the participants in this study reported an improvement in their symptoms. Furthermore, the participants’ elevated moods continued long after the study was over, even though the participants did not continue gardening. These results show just how powerful gardening can be when it comes to improving your mood and mental health.
2. Gardening Can Relieve Stress
Gardening is a relaxing activity, so it’s no surprise that it can relieve stress. But many people may be surprised to learn that it’s a better stress reliever than a lot of other leisure activities. Researchers in the Netherlands found that people who garden for 30 minutes report lower levels of stress than people who read for 30 minutes. The next time you need to relieve stress, consider heading outside to your garden instead of grabbing a good book.
3. Gardening for Aerobic Exercise
While many people enjoy gardening to relax, it can be a physically demanding hobby. Carrying bags of soil or fertilizer, pushing a wheelbarrow, pulling weeds, and digging holes all takes energy, so gardening is actually great aerobic exercise. So if you need to exercise more but don’t enjoy running or bicycling, try gardening instead! You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will work up a sweat. But don’t forget to stretch first!
4. Gardening Strengthens the Immune System
Even though your hands will be covered in dirt, gardening can actually improve your body’s ability to fight off illnesses. How? Gardening is typically done outdoors, which means you will be exposed to sunlight. Your body produces vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight, and this vitamin helps your body absorb more calcium. Because calcium plays an important role in keeping your immune system strong, gardening out in the sun can keep you healthy.
5. Gardening Increases Hand Strength
Pulling weeds and gripping a pair of clippers while you garden can strengthen the muscles in your hands. This may not seem important, but hand strength is crucial to many of the tasks that you do on a daily basis, such as opening jars or cutting vegetables. Increasing your hand strength can also undo some of the damage that is caused by repetitive activities such as typing or texting. If your hands and wrists are aching from performing the same activities over and over, consider incorporating gardening into your daily routine.
If you want to reap the rewards of gardening, start with flowers and herbs that grow easily. Sunflowers, Black-Eyed Susans, and Bee Balm are known to be low maintenance plants that grow fairly easily. However, you’ll always want to do a little research to find out which plants and flowers are suited for your climate so you can get the most out of your garden and enjoy the many health benefits that come with it!
Uma Campbell is a yoga instructor and freelance writer. She currently lives in Southern California. She enjoys writing about meditation, natural medicine, and home design. Her interests include home decor, yoga, and running. She also really loves crafting and has her own line of homemade jewelry. She lives alone with her cat and two turtles.