At NeighborScape, we love what we do, and we know first-hand the therapeutic properties gardening can have. We did a little research, and as it turns out there are many upsides to spending time in the garden — both physical, mental and environmental. Here are seven unexpected benefits of gardening:
1. Stress Relief — Studies have shown that gardeners have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Spending time outdoors and connecting with nature is proven to relax your mind — almost like meditation. This lowering of cortisol levels leads to better sleep and overall mental well-being.
2. Heart health – One of the greatest physical benefits that gardening imparts is to strengthen your heart. Because of the nature of the activity, the repetitive action and extended cardio, gardening naturally builds your endurance and stamina and reduces your risk of stroke and heart disease.
3. Brain Health – Long-term studies have shown that daily gardening reduces your risk of developing dementia by as much as 47%. The reasons why are poorly understood, but it likely has something to do with the fact that gardening involves so many of our essential functions like endurance, learning, strength, and sensory awareness.
4. Immune System – Being regularly exposed to bacteria from soil actually serves to strengthen a person’s immune system. Research shows that a bacterium found in soil, called Mycobacterium vaccae, reduces symptoms of allergies, asthma and psoriasis which stem from an unbalanced immune system.
5. Environmental Impact – By gardening, you are contributing to a healthy earth. Just like recycling, using low-energy appliances and carpooling can reduce your environmental footprint, so can a healthy garden reduce greenhouse gasses and release clean oxygen back into the atmosphere. It also provides a place to recycle your kitchen waste by way of composting and mulching.
6. Hand Dexterity & Strength – A common issue we face as we age is a lessening of the strength and dexterity in our hands. This can limit our range of activities and result in additional health issues. Gardening is a proven way of keeping hands naturally strong and agile. It’s important not to overdo it however, as repetitive action can cause strain if engaged in for too long.
7. Keep Your Brain Sharp – The physical benefits of gardening are obvious, but less obvious, are the intellectual benefits of the activity. Gardening serves to keep your brain sharp, as there is a lot of thinking that goes into planning and planting a garden. Learning about different techniques, climates, soils and plants and then applying that learning to a garden involves problem solving and creativity.