The health benefits of gardening may surprise you – InForum

Did you hear about the gardener who had a wheelbarrow full of four-leaf clovers? He was trying his luck.

Luck may be one factor in gardening, including the good health of the gardener, but the health benefits of the activity are well documented far beyond luck.

Following are the effects of gardening on our health, some of which may be surprising.

  • People who regularly garden have a significantly lower body mass index than those who don’t garden, according to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
  • In the same study, the average weight loss was 11 lbs. for women and 16 lbs. for men after one year of participation in a community vegetable garden.
  • Gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by 30% in adults over 60, according to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
  • A 2016 Harvard study of more than 120,000 women in the United States found that exposure to green natural environments made people live longer and reduced mortality by 12%.
  • Children who were introduced to gardening ate more fruits and vegetables, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Gardening provides a full-body workout, according to the American Horticultural Society. “Goal-oriented activity entices you to stay in the workout for longer and therefore reap more benefits from aerobic activity.”
  • Working with plants provides serious stress relief, as demonstrated by a 2016 NASA study of scientists who found that working with plants keeps astronauts healthy and happy in the harsh environment of space.
  • Exposure to the beneficial soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, improves the human immune system, reduces inflammation, and aids resistance to stress.
  • Coordination and hand strength are increased through garden activities such as planting and pruning.
  • Gardening can restore faith in the future because it requires a leap of faith, trusting that our efforts will lead to growth and change. When this belief becomes a reality, it helps bring 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, before and after they created a vegetable garden and found that their brain growth nerves has increased significantly.
  • Gardeners are lifelong learners because there is always something to learn about new plants, varieties and techniques.
  • Daily gardening can reduce the risk of dementia by 36%, according to a 2006 study published in the National Library of Medicine, in which researchers followed 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 the 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 immediate and long-term.

Coordination and hand strength are increased through garden activities such as planting and pruning.

File photo

In the studies cited, the term “horticulture” generally refers to activities in which people grow, cultivate, and care for plants, flowers, vegetables, lawns, and landscapes. How much time per day or per week should a person spend gardening to realize the health benefits?

  • The National Institutes 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 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.

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