Gardening for Health

Hectic schedules, deadlines, ballgames, family, world events…the list goes on.  Stress is a very real part of our lives.  All that stress does have an impact on our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Science continues to find more evidence that long term stress leads to a variety of illnesses from increased susceptibility to viral infection, increased risk for diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and digestive ailments to mental and emotional conditions.  So what to do about mitigating the effects of stress in our lives?  Incorporate garden exercise, surround ourselves with green, bring whole, healthy foods to the table from our gardens.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) moderate-intensity level activities for 2.5 hours per week are enough to reduce the risks for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.  As defined by the CDC, moderate-intensity level exercise is anything that increases the heart and breathing rate enough that you can still talk but not sing, which in my case is a relief to the neighbors.  Gardening is included in this category of exercise.  Even better, another study found that gardening motivaIMG_0022tes people to spend more time in the dirt compared to other forms of exercise such as bicycling and walking.  So not only is it good exercise with demonstrated health benefits, but we apparently find it more pleasant than spin classes.

For reduction of emotional and mental signs of stress, gardening and being out in green spaces has also been studied.  In one study a 10% increase in nearby green space was found to turn the clock back five years on an individual’s health complaints.  Working with plants is found so beneficial that horticultural therapy is sometimes recommended to help those struggling with depression, anger, fatigue and anxiety.  A 2006 study that followed 2800 subjects over the age of 60 for a period of 16 years found that gardening could reduce the risk of dementia by 36%.  That’s a lot of peace of mind.

If your gardening takes the form of a vegetable plot, there is the added advantage of fresh, local, pesticide free (because we know you would not add chemicals to your garden…right?) food for your table.  If you are more inspired to create rock gardens or divide dahlias that is no problem.  Visit your local farmers market to reap the healthy rewards of other gardeners, or set up a neighborhood flower/rutabaga swap.

Gardens come in all shapes, sizes and intents.  There is no right or wrong garden.  It may not even be your garden you are working in.  Community gardens love to see volunteers coming.  The point is that connecting with a garden and diving into the assorted tasks needed to maintain a garden space is beneficial to you in so many ways, how can you not?  Grab your shovel and embrace your inner gardener.  Weed pulling is therapy.


AARP. 5 Secret Health Benefits of Gardening. Kim Hayes, June 14, 2017.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measuring Physical Activity Intensity.  Retreived 7.1.17.

Rodale’s Organic Life. 5 Surprising Ways Gardenikng Improves Your Health.

Sherer, PM. The Benefits of Parks: Why America Needs More City Parks and Open Space. Retreived 7.1.17.

Soga M, Gaston KJ, Yamaura Y. Gardening is beneficial for health: a Meta-analysis. Preventative Medicine Report. 2017 Mar; 5:92-99.

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