7 health benefits of gardening

If you ask 10 people with gardens why they spend time and effort cultivating their gardens, all 10 might tell you it’s so they can enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

They may or may not enjoy the actual gardening work, but they certainly love the taste of their harvest. And they also like the idea of saving money by growing their own food.

But there are also hidden benefits that come from gardening. Most people don’t think about them, at least consciously, but they are very real.

Today we’re going to take a look at seven of these benefits. If you don’t currently have a garden, you just may consider taking up this healthy hobby when you’re finished reading. Here they are…

Heart health

We all know that eating more fruits and vegetables is healthy for our hearts. But many of us don’t realize that the physical act of gardening can accomplish a similar thing. A Swedish study revealed that regular gardening cuts stroke and heart attack risk by up to 30 percent for people over 60 years of age. And exposing your skin to the sun during part of your gardening activities will enable you to get more Vitamin D.

Immune system

Working in your garden will probably put dirt under your fingernails, but don’t be too quick to wash your hands. According to the journal Science, gardening can improve your immune system because of the beneficial bacteria found in soil. And a study from the University of Copenhagen showed that working in a garden can help prevent certain allergies and decrease the severity of an allergic reaction.

Hand strength and dexterity

Gardening involves many different uses of your hands, all of which can lead to greater hand strength and coordination. This is especially helpful to us as we age, because time will diminish those attributes. Try to alternate the use of your left and right hands for a balance. But if you’re experiencing hand pain, take a break or switch to a different activity that doesn’t produce that outcome.

Mind and mood

One study demonstrated that regular gardening could lower the risk of dementia in future years by 36 percent for those over 60. A study conducted in the Netherlands showed that gardening reduces stress more effectively than many other activities. Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease concluded that gardening is a powerful tool for protecting cognitive health and cutting the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Self-esteem and stress relief

The more gardeners’ skills increase, the more self-esteem they attain. That’s according to research conducted at Kansas State University. Researchers at NASA say that working with plants provides stress relief and positive sensory stimulation. And in a Dutch study, gardeners reported better moods than readers, and had lower levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone.

Exercise

This one is not as obvious because gardeners tend to stay in the same general spot for a while. But digging soil, planting crops, pulling weeds, twisting and turning can all exert energy and make you work up a sweat. These activities can work normally unused muscles, and help with your balance, flexibility, strength and stamina.

Loneliness

With fewer social opportunities, many seniors report increased loneliness as they age. A great way to combat those feelings is by getting involved in community gardening. It’s a way to engage with other people and help beautify neighborhoods. Among the advantages stated by the American Community Gardening Association are stimulating social interaction, producing nutritious food and reducing food budgets.

Eating the vegetables and fruits from your garden is a healthy thing to do. But even before your harvest, you can enjoy health benefits from gardening.

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