As any gardener will tell you, planting flowers, growing vegetables, mowing the lawn and generally tending to a garden can be extremely rewarding. It’s not just about the result – although having a beautiful, well-kept yard can be a source of great pride – because after all, you could just pay a professional.
What experienced gardeners know instinctively is that the process is just as important at the outcome. But if you “dig” a little deeper into the subject, you will realize that gardening has a whole range of advantages, some of which you might not have expected.
For anyone who is thinking of stepping out to get their hands dirty, here are our top 15 benefits of gardening to help give you a gentle push in the right direction.
1. Gardening can improve your heart health
Most people are aware of the many widely acknowledged health benefits of keeping active – and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle becomes even more important as you grow older.
In one study, researchers in Sweden showed that as you reach your 60s, regular physical activity can help improve heart health, reducing cardiovascular problems by up to 30% and decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
However, “keeping active” doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym and clocking up the miles on a treadmill. Activities such as working in the garden or taking on DIY projects are thought to be just as effective – so there’s one excellent reason to pull on your gardening gloves and head outside.
2. Gardening helps reduce stress
Many gardeners will tell you that the time they spend weeding, planting, pruning or digging can feel almost therapeutic. There’s something about being outside with plants, flowers and soil that seems to have a calming, relaxing effect – and now the science may back up what many people already knew.
Dutch researchers set up a test where they gave a group of 30 people a stressful task to complete. After the task was finished, half of the group was sent out to work in the garden for 30 minutes while the others were told to sit indoors and read. The results were striking.
It was found that levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, was found to decrease in both groups, but the effect was much more pronounced in the gardeners. The gardeners also reported that their positive mood returned after tending to the garden, but the readers said their mood became worse.
This was only a small test, and more work is needed – but the results would seem to suggest that gardening can be a successful way of alleviating stress.
3. Gardening decreases the risk of depression and makes you happier
Another area where gardening appears to have a positive effect is in fighting depression. While it’s not entirely clear how or why this happens, the fact that horticultural therapy is now developing as an accepted way of treating mental illness attests to its efficacy.
Perhaps the combination of being outside, breathing fresh air, being close to nature, engaging in physical activity and experiencing the feeling of achievement you get from planting and growing things is responsible. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of previous studies showed that gardening can also help to boost your mood.
If you’re already a gardener, this won’t be news to you – but if you’re looking for a way to beat depression and give yourself a more positive outlook, caring for a garden could be well worth a go.
4. Gardening helps boost your immune system
One particularly surprising advantage of gardening is that it could actually help boost your immune system. This is because soil contains a type of bacteria known as Mycobacterium vaccae, which is ingested through inhalation or through eating vegetables, and that is known to help with allergies, asthma and more.
By working with soil, you are exposing yourself to more M. vaccae, potentially aiding your organism in fighting off certain illnesses.
5. Gardening may reduce the risk of dementia
One of the most insidious and debilitating diseases of old age is dementia, but there is even evidence that spending time working in your garden can help lower the risk of developing this degenerative condition.
For example, one study in Australia has shown that daily gardening appeared to reduce the risk of dementia by 36% in men and women over 60.
The reasons for this are unclear, and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, are still poorly understood. It is known that many lifestyle factors may affect the onset and development of Alzheimer’s, but if gardening can help delay or prevent it, that’s one other powerful reason to get outside and start looking after your plants and veggies!
6. Gardening can help you lose weight
With the inactive modern lifestyles that many people lead coupled with the ubiquitous junk food and sugary drinks that so many of us consume, obesity is a growing problem around the world.
Lots of people are too busy to exercise while others don’t exercise because they don’t like it – but as it turns out, gardening can also be a smart option if you are looking to shed a few pounds.
You might not realize it, but that time spent outside digging, planting, watering and generally looking after your garden is a highly effective way of burning calories. In fact, working in the garden for an hour burns more calories than walking at a moderate pace for the same amount of time.
Furthermore, this is the perfect “exercise” for those who hate exercising. You simply go outside and spend time doing something you enjoy – and you use up energy and burn fat while you’re doing it.
For anyone who doesn’t want to go out running or work up a sweat in the gym, just hit the garden for up to an hour a few times a week and you’ll still receive the same benefits.
7. Gardening plays a role in increasing bone strength
Nowadays, too many of us spend more and more time indoors, and one of the problems with this is that we may end up suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.
We obtain most of the necessary vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy from what we eat; however, there are very few foods that contain enough vitamin D to meet our requirements. Instead, we make vitamin D in our bodies when our skin is exposed to the sun – but without sunlight, our bodies can’t produce it.
With enough vitamin D in our bodies, our bodies are able to absorb more calcium from dairy products and other sources, which is important for a strong bone structure, among other things.
This means, to stay healthy, we need to go outside – and what better way than spending time tending to the vegetable patch or planting flowers?
8. Gardening helps you sleep better
Do you have trouble dropping off at night? It turns out that gardening can help with that too since light activity such as gardening – or jogging, yoga or similar – is thought to promote better sleeping habits.
A study at the University of Pennsylvania looked at data concerning the activity and sleeping habits of 429,110 adults and found a correlation with physical activity and healthier sleeping patterns.
This might seem quite intuitive since physical activity helps make you tired enough to sleep while, as we have seen, gardening can also reduce stress, a common cause of insomnia. However, what we probably could have guessed before is apparently now supported by the science too.
This means if you often suffer from sleepless nights, spending a little time in the garden each day might be a solution worth trying out.
9. Gardening improves hand strength and agility
As we age, our hands become less dexterous than they once were, and while physiotherapists might prescribe hand exercises, it’s easy to skip them or just forget to do them.
So what’s the solution? You guessed it – gardening!
The movements we need to make when caring for plants and flowers give our hands a thorough workout, helping keep them flexible while also maintaining strength.
You don’t really need to think about it while you’re gardening – simply by digging, potting, cutting and pulling, you are giving your hands plenty of the exercise necessary. However, if you are particularly worried about your hand strength diminishing, you can also force yourself to use your non-dominant hand for tasks to make sure both hands benefit.
10. Gardening can improve your self-esteem
There’s something about achieving a goal that makes us feel good about ourselves and boosts our self-esteem. It might be learning a language, it could be training for and completing a marathon – or it could be the simple pleasure of growing something from a seed, nurturing it and caring for it right until it reaches maturity.
By planting flowers, you can take pride as your garden blooms, or if you prefer to grow vegetables, you can enjoy the deep satisfaction of eating a meal made with something you grew by your own hand.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to grow in your garden, but when you start to see the fruits of your labor, it’s sure to feel deeply gratifying.
11. Gardening is a way to bond with family members
Gardening is also an excellent way to spend time together as a family. Perhaps as a married couple with important careers to think about, you don’t have as much time with one another as you’d like. Or maybe you have kids who spend their whole time stuck in front of the screens of their tablets. The solution is to take time to go outside and work together in the garden.
You can each take charge of a certain area, growing fruit, vegetables, herbs or anything else. You can help each other, you can share stories about successes and failures, you can learn together and you can simply enjoy spending time in each other’s company. For all these reasons, gardening is something that can bring your family closer together.
12. Gardening can reduce loneliness
Many older members of society suffer from loneliness. They may spend their days alone at home, waiting for family members to call or just watching tv with no-one else to keep them company.
Instead, spending time on a community garden plot is an excellent alternative that can give them somewhere to go where they can meet people, socialize, make friends and enjoy the companionship of others.
Those coming together on a gardening plot will automatically have something in common they can talk about, making this the perfect way to meet new people and not need to feel lonely.
13. Gardening is a way to do something beneficial for the environment
We all know about the disastrous effects humans continue to have on the environment. We’ve polluted the air, filled the oceans with plastic, cut down and burnt rainforests and we continue to cause the extinction of countless species of animals, plants and insects all around the world.
Nobody can save the planet alone, but by taking up gardening, everyone can do a little bit to help. Plants and trees help remove carbon from the atmosphere, they create a more pleasant, greener space and provide vital habitats for a variety of species.
If you worry about the current state of our Earth, there are plenty of things you can do – like trying to use your car less, cutting down on plastics and so on – and creating a healthy, flourishing garden is another one you can add to the list.
14. Gardening can increase the value of your property
Having a thriving garden isn’t just good for the environment, however. It can also be good for your bank balance too, because if you are thinking of selling your home, a well-tended yard can increase its value.
Even if you aren’t motivated by the health or social benefits of gardening and you aren’t too bothered about the environment, gardening can still bring you tangible financial rewards. This is just one more reason why you should consider picking up your trowel or your spade.
15. Gardening allows you to eat healthier food for less
This is perhaps one of the most obvious of all the benefits of gardening – you can grow your own food and start eating more healthily.
When you buy fruit and veg from the supermarket, you never know what chemicals have been used in producing them. However, if you grow them at home in your own garden, you know exactly what you’ve put on them, allowing you to guarantee that it’s all 100% organic.
You can grow varieties of vegetables that are expensive to buy, and you can also introduce kids to a wider range of fresh produce, encouraging them to enjoy a more varied diet.
Many compelling reasons to take up gardening
So as you can see, there are many benefits to gardening, and some of them may have come as a surprise. However, with so many compelling reasons to head outside and start planting, perhaps the only question left is, what are you waiting for?
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