Garden Your Way to Better Health


Spring is just around the corner and what better way to meet it than with your lush beautiful garden. No wonder April is ‘National Garden Month’. A well-manicured garden is the pride and joy of every homeowner. Apart from bragging rights, gardening can offer you a number of impressive health benefits as well.

Gardening is one of the very few ways us urban folks can get close to nature. Working in your garden is a great exercise for both the mind and the body, too. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), gardening can be compared to moderate cardiovascular exercise. If you spend time in the garden pulling weeds, digging, raking and planting, you can burn as many as 150-300 calories in about 30-45 minutes.

Of course, gardening isn’t, by any means, an alternative to working out for those dream abs or those gigantic arms you always wished you had. Even if you are the most dedicated gardener and have the most meticulously planned backyard garden, gardening is at best a mild form of exercise.

However, if you dig, pull out weeds and plant saplings, you are sure to get an excellent low-impact exercise routine. If you can’t do rigorous exercises or have disabilities or suffer from chronic pain, gardening can be one of the best ways of getting some physical activity.
Also, the satisfaction of watching your favorite flowers blossom or the taste of those ‘fresh from the garden’ goodies are difficult to put into words.

But there are even more benefits to gardening than that sense of pride and a little good old fashion exercise.

Gardening for better mental health

The pressures of the modern world can creep up on you causing depression, anxiety and a host of other mental disorders. The joy of gardening can provide a healing touch that can help you rejuvenate and refresh your otherwise mundane life.

As a matter of fact, a recent study in Norway revealed that people suffering from depression, low mood and type II bipolar disorders greatly benefited from six hours a week of gardening.

The three-month long study revealed that about half of the participants experienced a measurable improvement in their mental health from spending time in gardening activities. Not only that, but their mood continued to improve even after the conclusion of the study. Although the reason for this is not entirely clear, some experts have put forth some explanation of how gardening can elevate mood in these conditions.

Gardening causes stress relief

We keep hearing stress is a root cause of mental, and to some extent, physical problems. According to a recent Dutch study, gardening can be a great stress buster. It can even be better than some of the leisurely activities that we associate with stress relief.

Researchers, Agnes E. Van Den Berg, and Mariëtte H. G. Custers studied the effect of gardening on stress relief in this study. After stressing out 30 willing participants, the researchers divided them into two groups and assigned them to the following tasks:

The first group was allotted a small personal garden plot to do some gardening on, and
the second group was given a magazine of their choice to be read in a home near the garden plot.

The stress levels of the participants were measured at the beginning of the study, in the middle and at the end of the study period.

The results showed that both activities, gardening and reading a magazine, reduced the stress level of the participants. However, the interesting finding was that the mean stress level of the group doing gardening work was much lower than that of the group reading the magazine.

The gardening group also had a much lower level of the stress hormone Cortisol.

Something to take home

Gardening can be an excellent form of low impact exercise, a great stress reliever and a great way to get that fresh produce right from the soil into the kitchen. With spring knocking on the door, this is the best time to start a small garden and experience the joy that only a gardener can have.

Veronica Davis