4 Ways Gardening Improves Your Health

National Lawn and Garden Month is celebrated in April each year.  It is a great month to get our hands in the dirt! Did you know gardening also does wonders for our well-being? Here are four surprising health benefits of gardening.

  1. Being in touch with nature and the great outdoors can help us feel relief from the stress of life. In a study, researchers exposed participants to stressful stimulus. Then they split the group, asking one to garden and one to read quietly. Researchers tested stress hormone levels in everyone’s body and found that the group that gardened had lower stress hormone levels than the group that read quietly.  We may not have the time to go camping or take a nature hike each day, having our piece of nature right outside our back door can help us get daily doses of nature’s stress relief.
  2. There is good news for those of us who already log hours planting and weeding.  Gardening is classified as moderate exercise by the American Heart Association. We can easily burn the same number of calories working in our garden, lawn, or flowers as we would at the gym. Digging, raking, and push mowing are particularly effective at burning calories. Experts say that gardening incorporates all four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Gardening should be thought of as a whole-body exercise that works all the major muscle groups.
  3. Scientists have revealed gardening could protect against dementia. Researchers who analyzed lifestyle habits and brain scans of aging adults found that any activity that gets us moving on a regular basis seems to help the brain increase gray matter. This, in turn, may keep dementia at bay.  Evidence from studies is so persuasive that doctors have begun prescribing outdoor activities to patients. Long-term care facilities are seeing the therapeutic benefits of installing dementia gardens.  They have found gardening to be an inexpensive, effective, nonpharmacological intervention that can reduce dementia symptoms and improve quality of life.
  4. Having dirt under fingernails may be a sign of poor hygiene, but scientists say it could also be a mark of good health. Thanks to beneficial bacteria found in soil, gardening improves our immune system, helping us get sick less and fight off infections easier.  Planting a garden full of vibrant vegetables also fosters a diet loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that support our immune system.  A medley of squash, radishes and tomatoes add appetizing eye candy to our garden and salad bowl. The varying colors of vegetables reflect the different phytonutrients and antioxidants inside.  Multi-hued meals give us more health benefits and disease-fighting power than monochromatic ones. Go ahead and grow the rainbow!

So, whether our gardens are large or small, a few pots on our porch, a raised bed, or a community garden getting dirty and eating clean are good for us!  Have a happy National Garden Month!

Previously published in the Hampton County Guardian Augusta Chronicle USA Today Network

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