Gardening Produces Multiple Health Benefits
Can two gardening sessions per week make a difference in your physical and psychological health? In a recent study, this activity produced smaller waistlines as well as improvements in endurance, hand dexterity, cognition and mood.
According to the researchers, despite the well-documented advantages of exercise, most elderly people spend 80 percent of their time in sedentary activities. Since gardening is popular with this age group, the authors undertook an investigation of the benefits. They studied 24 women at a senior community center who participated in 50-minute gardening sessions twice weekly. The control group consisted of 26 women at another senior community center who didn’t engage in gardening. Health assessments were performed before and after the experiment period of seven weeks.
Let’s face it: No matter how hard you try to eat healthy and live well, these days you just can’t avoid all of the harmful toxins in the air you breathe, the water you drink and the soil your food is grown in.
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Low to moderate-intensity physical activities were chosen for the study. These included making furrows, planting and watering along with fertilizing, weeding and harvesting. The participants also designed the garden, arranged the flowers and attended garden parties.
Impressive Results Were Seen After Seven Weeks
At the end of the experiment, a marked difference between the two groups of women was apparent. The waistline circumference of those in the gardening group significantly decreased, but the waistline size of those in the control group slightly increased. Lean mass in the intervention group was maintained, while lean mass in the control group declined. The women who gardened also had greater aerobic endurance and hand dexterity.
In addition to the physical health benefits, the intervention resulted in psychological and cognitive improvements. Testing showed the cognitive skills of the gardening group significantly increased. Although depression scores worsened in the control group, depression scores in the intervention group didn’t change.
Why Is Gardening Beneficial?
Any type of activity that gets the heart pumping leads to improved physical, mental and psychological health. It’s clear that gardening tasks give enough of a workout to produce these effects. Aside from the aerobic benefit, the carrying and squatting involved build strength in the arms and legs.
Might some additional factors associated with the activity play a role in the positive physical health outcomes? Advantages of working in the outdoors include breathing fresh air and exposure to vitamin D from sunlight, which is linked to many wellness benefits. Getting the hands dirty provides contact with friendly bacteria, an asset that improves immunity.
Gardening is also linked to mental health boosts that go beyond the benefits of exercise. Studies show growing evidence that merely being in a green space leads to lower blood pressure and relieves feelings of stress, fear and anger. Watching plants grow also gives a sense of achievement and satisfaction.
Some experts consider gardening to be a form of meditation. The sights, scents and tactile stimuli encountered when working with plants provide a sensory experience that enables people to be in the present moment rather than dwelling on problems. Moreover, it offers a welcome respite from the attention fatigue brought on by cell phones, emails and computers.
Looking to put your green thumb to use sooner rather than later? Check out our article Gardening Goals? 18 Seeds to Plant ASAP for the best plants to start growing now before springtime rolls around. And speaking of gardening during the colder months, check out the best and worst seeds to plant indoors below.
To learn more, read Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Own Flowers, Vegetables & Herbs.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.