Gardening with Allen

How Gardening Benefits Your Health

With technology increasingly dominating our lives, immersing oneself in nature seems like a good antidote. In America, a whopping 90% of the populations spend most of their times indoors leading a sedentary lifestyle. Obesity is at 40% of U.S. adults, and healthcare costs are the highest in the world, and still increasing.

Children spend little of their time outdoors in nature but spend an ever-increasing proportion of their time staring at electronic devices. It’s pretty clear that the situation is unhealthy and can’t be allowed to continue. So, what can we do? Research shows that gardening might be just the answer you’re looking for.

Exercise with a purpose

Instead of hitting the gym, a bout of heavy gardening can help you maintain your weight, as well as reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Digging and other heavy garden chores done for a 30-minute bout three or more times a week will help keep you fit and healthy.

If it’s strenuous enough to leave you slightly out of breath, it will improve your heart health. Activities like raking or operating a hand mower can give you a really good workout. And 30 minutes five days a week has been found to reduce your risk of Type II diabetes and several different types of cancer. You can refer to posts by registered dietitians at Livin 3 for further advice on exercise and nutrition.

 Calms the mind

But gardening goes beyond physical health. Many studies show that gardening has the edge of many other forms of exercise in that it can reduce depression, anxiety, and feelings of stress.

Getting involved in working the soil and nurturing plants to flourish has an almost magical way of disrupting the obsessive thoughts we might have running through our heads. 

Instead, immersing yourself in the wonderful world of plants and soil can help you achieve a sense of peace and wellbeing, and calm the frantic mind. Just looking at nature can help surgical patients recover more quickly, research has found. 

All it takes is 20 minutes

Just looking at nature, and certainly actually working with plants, gives our brains a break from the work it has to perform on daily life. So how long does it take for nature to have an effect?

 Researchers say we relax and destress in under 20 minutes when we enter nature. In that time, various physiological symptoms to decrease to within normal levels.

 That includes the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body, as well as blood pressure, and heart rate. So, even if you’re not doing much gardening, you’re still benefiting by taking in the beauty of nature.

 Happy hormone

 There’s no doubt about it, gardening makes you feel happy. And that’s not by accident. There’s a scientific reason for that: when you work the soil, you inhale a bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae.

 This type of bacterium can increase your levels of serotonin, the “happy hormone,” that has an anti-depressant effect. Research has shown that these bacteria also increase learning ability in mice, holding promise for humans too.

 How to start

 Not everybody is a born gardener. If you have little to no experience, start small so that you get quick results and benefits. Try one of the herbs or flower starter kits you can buy. They take very little maintenance, and because you can eat the adult plants, you’re sure of healthy satisfaction with your dose of gardening magic.

 Just make sure that you’re appreciating every little thing you do towards nurturing your garden. That appreciation alone can increase your sense of wellbeing.

Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.