Dr. Don Colbert – Is there really value in getting your hands dirty in the summer? Beyond harvesting food, are there benefits to gardening?
Amazingly, there are many proven benefits of gardening (1)!
There’s something about the age-old task of going outside, enjoying the sunshine, feeling the dirt, and growing your own food that’s good for the body, mind, and soul.
Here are just some of the proven benefits of gardening.
8 Proven Health Benefits of Gardening
1. SUNSHINE AND VITAMIN D
When you spend just 10-15 minutes in the sun, with just your hands or arms exposed, the vitamin Dlevels in your body increase. This, in turn, supports your immune function, calcium levels, bone health, and more.
2. A BETTER MOOD
Who couldn’t use a better mood most days? Stick your hands in the dirt and grow something!
A study from the Netherlands found that gardening fights stress even better than many other hobbies. In this study, participants first completed a stressful task. Then, they were told to either read inside or go outside and garden.
The gardening group reported better moods, and lab tests supported that they had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol afterward.
Yet another study found why gardening is so effective. When we inhale M. vaccae, a healthy bacteria that live in soil, our bodies respond by increasing serotonin and reducing anxious feelings. All it takes is getting down and dirty in the soil, or even just walking through the garden or woods. Amazingly, inhaling the soil and gardening is even linked to fewer childhood allergies (2).
3. FEEL THE BURN
It may not seem like an aerobic effort, but gardening at a moderate intensity can burn more than 300 calories per hour! Plus, it requires a lot of muscle work to bend, kneel, dig, and hoe.
What’s more, you can improve trunk strength with twisting, and flexibility with bending.
The best part?
You may enjoy it so much you won’t even recognize it as exercise.
4. BRAIN POWER
Another health benefit of gardening is a boost in brainpower.
One 2006 study reported that gardening may lower the risk of neurodegeneration by as much as 36%! This study followed more than 2800 people who were 60 years old or more. It lasted 16 years.
It found that those who participated in physical activity, and especially gardening, were less likely to decline (3).
5. BETTER SLEEP
Another wonderful health benefit of gardening is better sleep. Healthy sleep further supports our immune system, moods, and health.
How does gardening help?
First, light physical activity like daily gardening is associated with better sleep at night (4).
What’s more, especially if you get out early in the morning, natural early sunlight improves our circadian rhythms and melatonin levels later in the day, making it easier to fall asleep and enjoy a high level of sleep quality.
6. STRONG HANDS AND FEET
As we age, the strength in our hands and feet often diminishes. In fact, as we use our feet less, the muscles can weaken to the point that we require extra padding and support in our shoes.
But, strong hands and feet are health benefits of gardening.
By digging with your hands, and occasionally walking the garden barefoot, you can activate these muscles while enjoying the soil and land. Digging, hoeing, shoveling, and more are great for upper body strength. Walking, kneeling, and twisting will strengthen your lower muscles.
7. HEALTHY BLOOD PRESSURE
Along with a better mood, an amazing proven benefit of gardening includes healthy blood pressure.
In fact, just 30 minutes of daily moderate-level physical activity, and especially those combined with outdoor activity like gardening, can support healthy blood pressure.
Gardening is just what the doctor ordered.
8. SOCIALIZING OPPORTUNITIES
Gardening is a wonderful way to socialize.
You can garden in a community garden. Or, take gardening classes at the local home improvement shop.
Socializing with a common hobby or interest is a great way to support overall health and mental health.
Gardening is a fantastic way to stay healthy. In fact, the proven health benefits of gardening extend from your brain to your feet. Get your hands dirty and stay healthy!