Skip to contentSkip to search
TELUS Health logo
TELUS Health logo
Skip to main content

6 health benefits of gardening

3 generations of women in a vegetable garden

Gardening can provide so much more than fresh veggies for your dinner or an eye-catching bouquet for your table.

Having a green thumb is associated with many physical and mental health benefits, helping people get physically active, de-stress, and eat better. Research has even shown higher happiness levels in people who garden. 

Here are a few of the many health benefits associated with gardening:

1. Gardening can help improve physical fitness

Yard work can be great for your physical health. Light gardening or yard work can burn up to approximately 330 calories an hour, and research has also shown a link between gardening and lower blood pressure. Activities like raking or shoveling can boost the heart rate, while carrying buckets or shifting rocks can strengthen muscles. Pruning can help improve flexibility and balance. Keeping your blood pressure in check as well as doing exercise that helps build muscle strength, flexibility and balance are all examples of ways you may be able to help stay healthy over time. If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of your current fitness level, a Preventative Health Assessment may be valuable.

Just like with any physical activity, it’s important to take care of your body. Some ways to help prevent injury and get the physical benefits of gardening include: 

  • Warm-up with a 5-10 minute walk before performing any intense activity or heavy lifting
  • Lift with your legs to help prevent back injuries, and switch hands often
  • Alternate heavy work with light work, such as digging with pruning
  • Stretching can also be beneficial before you begin. 

2. Gardening can help relieve stress

Exposure to even just a small amount of nature can have a calming effect on the mind and can help reduce potentially negative thoughts. Horticultural therapy, a mental health practice that uses plants and the garden landscape to help promote well-being, can be highly restorative. 

Multiple studies have shown that people who garden benefit from lower rates of stress, anxiety and depression. One way that gardening can help us de-stress is through practicing mindfulness at the same time. Fragrances, textures, taste, and sounds - like a fresh, crisp vegetable or leaves rustling in the wind - provide opportunities for us to be in the present, and connect with our breath and surroundings. 

To practice mindfulness while gardening, you might try to:  

  • Take a moment to feel the sensation of the breeze or the warmth of the sun
  • Notice your mood as you shift from one task to another
  • Focus your attention on a buzzing insect or the fragrance of a flower

3. Gardening can help improve your cognitive function

Not only can gardening help you de-stress, it can also help improve cognitive function and both long and short term memory. This is because there is an element of problem solving associated with gardening, and things like strategizing what to plant and when, learning about new plants and discovering new planting techniques provide healthy challenges for the brain.

Gardening provides opportunities for mental clarity, sensory awareness, and relief from concentration fatigue. It’s just one of many ways to help improve your mental wellness.

4. Gardening can help support your immune system

While it’s important to protect your skin when you’re out in the sun, getting outside may be a great way to get exposure to vitamin D, which helps support a healthy immune system. Vitamin D can also help the body absorb calcium, creating strong bones and teeth. 

5. Gardening encourages healthy eating

Growing your own vegetables means you can eat them when they are perfectly ripe, and also means you will have nutritious snacks on hand in your own backyard. With so many plant-based recipes out there, the opportunities for making healthy meals are endless.

And research suggests that children who participated in a gardening program were more inclined to eat vegetables afterward. Healthy eating is also a great way to support your immune system. 

6. Gardening can lead to social connections 

Many cities and towns have community gardens, where you can carve out a garden patch to make your own. Community gardening may be a great way to meet other gardeners, and studies have shown the benefits of socializing on both physical and mental health. Not only can friends help you de-stress, research shows that having good friends can help extend your life as much as quitting smoking9.

A great hobby for both physical and mental health

Activities like gardening are a great way to get outside and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but you may be wondering what else you can do to live your healthiest life. 

TELUS Health Care Centres has clinics located across the country, providing individuals and families with annual assessments and ongoing care programs. A Preventive Health Assessment provides a snapshot of your overall health through a series of diagnostic testing and 1:1 conversations with healthcare providers,  and is available from TELUS Health Care Centres.