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. Research1 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 hour2, and research has also shown a link between gardening and lower blood pressure3. 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 reduce4 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 studies5 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 calcium6, 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.
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 studies8 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.
Ambrose, G., Das, K., Fan, Y., & Ramaswami, A. (2020, March 10). Is gardening associated with greater happiness of urban residents? A multi-activity, dynamic assessment in the twin-cities region, USA. Landscape and Urban Planning. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169204619307297
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 9). Physical activity for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html?s_cid=tw_ob387
J;, H. A. Q. C. T. (n.d.). Physiological and psychological effects of gardening activity in older adults. Geriatrics & gerontology international. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29626378/
The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature - sage journals. (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2022, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225
Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., & Yamaura, Y. (2016, November 14). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335516301401
Government of Canada. (2022, May 2). Canada.ca. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/vitamin-d.html
Davis, J. N., Pérez, A., Asigbee, F. M., Landry, M. J., Vandyousefi, S., Ghaddar, R., Hoover, A., Jeans, M., Nikah, K., Fischer, B., Pont, S. J., Richards, D., Hoelscher, D. M., & Van Den Berg, A. E. (2021, January 23). School-based gardening, cooking and nutrition intervention increased vegetable intake but did not reduce BMI: Texas sprouts - a cluster randomized controlled trial - International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and physical activity. BioMed Central. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-021-01087-x
Henssler, J., Stock, F., van Bohemen, J., Walter, H., Heinz, A., & Brandt, L. (2020, October 6). Mental health effects of infection containment strategies: Quarantine and isolation-A systematic review and meta-analysis - European archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. SpringerLink. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00406-020-01196-x
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (n.d.). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLOS Medicine. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000316