Gardening has many health benefits for both the body and mind. It is a great way to get some exercise while reaping the benefits of spending time outdoors, getting fresh air and sunshine. Gardening helps a person connect to Nature and relaxes the brain by providing a break from the overstimulation which can be caused by activities of daily life. Specific plants have healing properties. Gardening can help a person develop connections with neighbours. Those who grow fruit and vegetables organically get the additional health benefits of eating really nutritious food.
Exercise Gardening is good exercise. Muscles in the legs, arms, shoulders, back, neck and stomach get a work out. The stretching involved is good exercise as long as you don’t twist. Activities such as lifting bags of potting mix, pushing a wheelbarrow and spading are similar to resistance training exercises. These activities result in stronger bones and joints but care needs to be taken to avoid overexertion.
Research has shown gardening
• Increases flexibility
• Strengthens bones, decreasing the likelihood of developing osteoporosis
• Strengthens joints
• Decreases blood pressure
• Decreases cholesterol levels
• Lowers the risk of diabetes
The recommended amount of time spent gardening is at least thirty minutes a day. If it does not suit to do a thirty minute session of gardening, similar benefits can be gained from doing shorter sessions during the day to a total of thirty minutes. Each session needs to be at least 8 minutes of moderate to high intensity activity.
Some activities are more intense than others. Research has shown digging to be a high intensity activity. Raking is a moderate intensity activity. If you are moving more quickly you will burn up more kilojoules but it is important not to overdo it or you could strain your muscles.
Research involving over 3,000 older women at the Arkansas University found gardening activities were more effective for reducing osteoporosis than jogging, swimming and aerobics programs.
Connecting To Nature When a person is gardening he/she feels connected to Nature. Time spent in Nature lowers blood pressure and reduces muscle tension. Watching birds, lizards, insects and any other creatures found in the garden can be relaxing. Being actively involved with Nature can help heal emotional distress.
People who enjoy gardening benefit emotionally from creating a beautiful environment. Gardening can also stimulate a person’s creativity. Birds and other wildlife will be attracted to the garden providing interesting things to watch and stimulating curiosity.
Noisy Miner and agapanthus Image:Marie Vonow
Sunshine Sunshine is good for a person’s health as long as care is taken to avoid overexposure. Using sunscreen and wearing a hat and long sleeves help protect from too much sun. On hot days gardening activities should be carried out at the coolest times of the day.
Sunlight boosts serotonin, a transmitter involved in regulating mood, sleep and memory. Being exposed to sunlight helps reduce depression, reduces stress and makes a person feel more positive. It also strengthens the immune system.
Exposure to sunlight helps establish a regular sleep pattern. The production of melatonin, the hormone produced at night to make a person drowsy, is shut off by sunlight.
The body turns sunlight into vitamin D. Studies have found a link between Vitamin D and good bone health. Vitamin D has also been found to help protect against kidney, colon and breast cancer.
Fresh Air Spending time in the fresh air is good for both body and brain. Fresh air aids digestion, strengthens the immune system and improves blood pressure. It also allows clean air to get into your lungs and provides you with more energy.
Healing Properties Of Plants Specific plants have healing properties. Some herbs such as lemon balm, chamomile, peppermint and lemon grass make lovely teas with a variety of health benefits. Aloe vera helps heal cuts to the skin. Lavender reduces stress and encourages sleep. Simply brushing up against aromatic bushes or smelling flowers such as roses or freesias can uplift the spirits.
Aloe vera has healing properties Image:Marie Vonow
Sometimes neighbours or people walking past will strike up a conversation if you are gardening in your front yard. Talking about plants is an easy way of getting involved in conversation without being too personal. Exchanging cuttings, seedlings or excess produce can foster a good relationship with neighbours adding to a feeling of belonging to the local community.
Growing Food Fruit and vegetables grown in the garden are fresher and nutritionally superior to produce bought from stores. Studies have found fewer people have diabetes in areas where more fruit and vegetables are grown in backyard or community gardens. Growing some of your own food also makes people feel more in control of their lives and satisfied.
Rocket leaves are nice in a salad. Image:Marie Vonow
Studies have shown gardeners have more energy, are more satisfied with life in general and enjoy better sleep. They are likely to be more positive, have lower stress levels and generally be happier.