We live in a world obsessed with health and that's a good thing. Leading a balanced lifestyle has innumerable health benefits; boosted-mood, reduced vulnerability to disease, a longer life. However, in the fast-paced chaos of 21st century life, maintaining a healthy routine can feel like a challenge. But it doesn't have to be! Simple daily tasks, tiny changes to our diet, can all have a positive knock-on effect. Did you know, for example, that gardening has a variety of positive health benefits? Yes, spending time pruning the hedge, sowing vegetables and cutting the grass can all contribute to a healthier you. This article, from Fraser C. Robb, looks at the health benefits of gardening.
The most obvious benefit of gardening is exercise. Studies have shown that 2 or 3 hours of gardening can be the same as a one-hour gym session. Tasks such as cutting the grass, pulling weeds, and digging, stimulate different muscle groups, so that gardening can become just as beneficial as jogging or swimming.
Since the exercise which accompanies gardening is less obvious than a stint at the local leisure center (due to lengthened participation time, increased brain stimulation and decreased intensity), studies have shown that many are less likely to abandon the pursuit - especially those in the older demographic. In fact, garden-based exercise, according to a Stockholm study, has been shown to cut the risk of strokes and heart attacks but up to 30% for those aged over 60.
It is important to consider the knock-on effect exercise has on our mental health. Those who maintain an active lifestyle are:
Reduction of Stress
Amazingly, gardening has been shown to reduce levels of stress in the body, as well as improving overall mood.
In 2010, Dutch scientists Agnes E. Van Den Berg and Mari«tte H.G. Custers published a paper entitled Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress. The full study can be accessed here:
Don't let the title put you off! This study should simply have been called Gardening Reduces Stress: Fact!
The study's thirty participants were subjected to stressful tasks, followed by a thirty-minute recovery period of either gardening or reading (which each were assigned to randomly). Mood and cortisol (stress) levels were monitored throughout the recovery period. It was found that gardening boosted mood while reading reduced it. Furthermore, cortisol levels decreased at a significantly more rapid rate among the gardeners.
Studies from the Wageningen University and Research Center, and a study published by HortTechnology, found similar results.
Overall Improved Mental Health
Exercise, as we know, is shown to increase our mental wellbeing through the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression. Yet, besides exercise, gardening still has countless positive effects on our mental wellbeing.
A study from Kansas State University showed that, among 53 elderly volunteers, those who participated in gardening had increased self-esteem (as well as physical ability). This sense of self-esteem can be increased when considering the pride one feels for their garden.
Another study conducted by Bakker Spalding discovered that 88% of people spent time gardening because it had a positive impact upon their mental state. There is a social element to gardening the increased activity outdoors and thereby increased likelihood of talking with passers-by, or fellow gardeners which has countless positive mental effects.
Interesting fact: Horticultural Therapy is a treatment process which engages patients in gardening to aid in their therapeutic recovery. It is successful on the combination of physical activity, mental stimulation and spending time outdoors.
Finally, some studies have claimed that exposure to chemicals in soil - specifically Mycobacterium vaccae - have a positive effect on our mental health. The testing, however, has only taken place on mice so far.
Interacting with the great outdoors, and being exposed to natural bacteria, is shown to improve our immune system. This, in turn, reduces our likelihood of catching common infections and diseases, including the common cold and flu. Having children play and work in the garden is vital for their development too.
Healthy Diet Encouragement
Growing your own fruits and vegetables is one step towards a more balanced diet. Eating them is the second...
It is far more encouraging and exciting to eat the food grown by our own sweat and labour. Nothing beats a batch of home-grown potatoes, mashed, with a side of green beans, to accompany that juicy steak.
Growing your own food, and getting the kids involved, is also a fantastic way to encourage children to eat more fruit and veg.
Working in the garden is shown to improve hand strength and dexterity. This is spurred by the use of the hands in simple, often intricate, tasks.
Be careful though! Continuous hand-based activities can cause repetitive strain injury, tendonitis or even carpal tunnel syndrome. Take breaks, switch hands regularly and be comfortable in your garden work.
So don't delay! Slap on those boots and gloves, wrap up tight and get outside, the garden is waiting.
By Dylan Blyth.
We sell and service all types of Agricultural and Horticultural Machinery, from lawnmowers for small gardens to tractors. We are approved dealers for many brands including Stihl, Toro, Hayter, Mountfield, Cub Cadet, Stiga, Iseki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Scag, Jenz, Major
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