The Wonder of Gardening
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
I’ve been a little grumpy lately and I know why. Due to a darn chilly spring and an unusually hectic family and work schedule, I have not gotten out in the garden yet. I miss it and can’t wait to get out there and get my hands dirty. I am an accidental gardener. I have a few raised beds for veggies and herbs, a handful of beautiful ever-blooming roses, and perennial gardens that well, need some help. I dig up plants here, transplant there, and generally hope for a happy accident every year. Fortunately, Mother Nature never disappoints. Even though, my dedication to watering and weeding wanes as the season progresses, I still harvest beans, tomatoes, beets, squash, and more. The hybrid rose bushes do their thing with minimal care on my part and produce beautiful blooms from June to October. The benefits, however, go beyond fresh produce on the dinner table and pretty posies. I am genuinely happier, more relaxed, and even grateful during the growing season. Science backs up my experience. Gardening is good for us physically, mentally, and socially. A perfect hobby for young and old alike, gardening can be as small scale as a few containers on the front steps or porch to a large-scale multi-acre extravaganza.
Physical Benefits of Gardening
The CDC states gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.
· Gardening for at least 2½ hours a week raises your breathing and heart rates and strengthens your muscles. If you have been inactive, start out with just a few minutes of physical activity each day. Gradually build up time and intensity.
· People may be more likely to stick with gardening rather than the gym. Exercise for exercise sake can be tedious and boring but gardening produces real outcomes. Movements are natural and normal. Gripping a weed and pulling it out may be more satisfying than pulling on a resistance band.
· Fresh veggies and fruit are full of antioxidants, good for you plant chemicals that naturally fight disease and increase energy. In addition, produce is low in calories and high in fiber, the perfect formula for fighting obesity.
· Children who garden are more likely to eat more vegetables and try new foods.
Social and Societal Benefits
· Community and individual gardens enhance our neighborhoods. Gardens beautify vacant lots, revitalize communities, and revive parks.
· Community gardens improve social well-being as people work, eat, and play together. Social connections strengthen when folks stand side-by-side to harvest flowers and produce.
· Parents and children benefit spending time away from screens while enjoying the great outdoors together.
Mental Health Benefits
According to gardeningmatters.org, gardening increases mental health and well-being.
· A 2003 study, found that exposure to green space reduces stress and increases a sense of wellness and belonging.
· “A ten percent increase in nearby greenspace was found to decrease a person’s health complaints in an amount equivalent to a five year reduction in that person’s age,” reported a 2006 Trust for the Public Land article.
· Various gardening programs throughout the United States involve veterans, stroke and traumatic brain injury patients, and others. Several studies show that gardening improves recovery rates and helps with rehabilitation.
· A Netherlands study suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities such as reading. People that gardened reported being in a better mood and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
· Some studies suggest that soil bacteria (found in soil and fresh produce) helps elevate mood and alleviate depressive symptoms.
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator with UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, NY. For questions or to suggest article topics, contact Lorraine at firstname.lastname@example.org or (585)335-4327.