Spending time in nature makes you happier and healthier. But do you want to supercharge your time in nature? Then you should consider gardening. There are many ways gardening improves your health, from reducing stress, improving cognition, and giving you the freedom to grow healthier foods in your own backyard (or even in your apartment!).
Gardening is one of the best activities out there for living a holistically healthy lifestyle. Not only do you exercise while gardening, but you also get to be outside, relaxing in nature. And, at the end of the day, you might walk away with some fruits and vegetables!
Gardening Improves Cognition
Gardening has been found to improve cognition. In fact, some studies suggest it works better than commonly suggested cognition activities, such as crossword puzzles and sudoku!
In a 2020 study, researchers designed a gardening program for an elderly living community. Some community members were placed in the gardening programs and others, a control group, were not. Those in the control group did participate in other activities thought to improve cognition, such as reading.
The gardening group saw more indicators of improved cognition. This might be because gardening is a muscle memory activity and works more parts of our brain than sedentary activities.
Not only can gardening improve cognition, it can also act against dementia. A comprehensive literature review from 2012 in Psychiatry Investigation by Detweiler et al investigated the evidence to support therapeutic gardens for the elderly, especially those in assisted living or dementia care facilities.
It makes the case that “constructing…dementia residence gardens that encourage autonomy and sensory stimulation is an economically sound, non-pharmacological strategy for improving the quality of life for persons needing these types of residences.” The study found gardening reduced reliance on medication while at the same time provided benefits like autonomy and mental stimulation for those with dementia.
If you want to improve your cognition or reduce your chances of dementia, why not consider adding gardening to your daily routine?
Reduce Stress with Gardening
If you’ve ever spent time digging deep and gardening, then you know how peaceful of an activity it can be. And there’s actual science to support the tranquility gardening gives you!
Multiple studies have shown how gardening reduces stress, particularly through decreasing cortisol levels in the body.
A 2011 study involved patients who performed a stressful task and were then randomly assigned to 30 minutes of either outdoor gardening or indoor reading. Both groups had a decrease in cortisol, but the effects were significantly more pronounced for the gardening group. The study adds that “positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading.” The study concluded that gardening can provide relief from acute stress.
The same 2020 study which researched the positive cognitive impacts of gardening also found that not only does gardening decrease cortisol levels, it can also increase serotonin which will improve your mood. After completing the gardening program, participants saw an increase in serotonin levels as well as a decrease in stress indicators.
In fact, for many people gardening is a type of comfort nature. Comfort nature places are areas you can go when you need a mental health boost or to practice self care.
Unsure if gardening is one of yours? Take my free quiz to discover your comfort nature.
Next time you need to destress or want a serotonin hit, try gardening!
Gardening Burns Calories
The same 2020 study which discovered the increase in serotonin levels in participants in a community gardening program had another shocking discovery. Gardening also provides physical health benefits, including increased strength, for elderly participants.
And the benefits are for everyone, not just the elderly. In fact, gardening can burn as many calories as some forms of yoga and can even be an effective tool for muscle rehabilitation.
A 2013 study from Korea tested how many calories participants between the ages of 20-30 burned while gardening. The researchers also monitored six muscles to see the strain on them while gardening. The study found these muscles were positively impacted by gardening sessions, suggesting gardening could be a tool for physical rehabilitation.
Next time you want to get a good workout in, remember you don’t necessarily have to go to the gym; you can garden to get many similar physical benefits and to burn calories!
Eat Healthier With Gardening
An indirect benefit of gardening is that you will eat healthier. Even healthy food found in grocery stores can contain residue from pesticides which have been linked to cancer. And, a lot of the soil where crops are grown doesn’t have the necessary nutrients to help our bodies fight against diseases.
One of the best ways to make sure your food wasn’t grown in weak soil or sprayed with harmful pesticides is to grow it yourself.
There are many benefits of growing your own food, including:
- Saving money as its often cheaper to grow than to buy
- Helping to slow climate change as it cuts down on emission fuels to transfer food to grocery stores and markets
- Becoming more self sufficient
- Avoiding the health harms of pesticides used in industrial agriculture
- Growing food in healthier soil and strengthen your immune system
The bottom line? If you’re looking to save money while making your plate more nutrient dense and healthier, consider growing your own food.
Ways to Get Started
The idea of growing your own food may sound appealing, but it could be tricky to get started, especially if you’ve never gardened before.
When I started La Puma Farms, I had little experience with farming and gardening. It showed through my early, failed ventures to turn the dilapidated sand pit I bought into something more. Slowly, I learned how to revitalize the land and turn the dilapidated pit into a thriving farm which grows many crops, from avocados to makrut limes.
If you want to learn more about gardening practices to get started yourself, check out my guide on how to start an organic garden at home.
Gardening has transformed my life and it can transform yours too. From increased cognition, decreased stress, burning calories, and a more nutrient-rich plate, there’s plenty of reasons to start growing and digging today!