The Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening
Gardening is a great way to keep active, but did you know it could also help reduce the risk of dementia and improve your mental health?
If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your spare time which is close to home and good for your health then look no further than your back garden.
Some of the more well-known benefits of gardening include getting your dose of vitamin D and exercise, but gardening also has some surprising health benefits including reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Grab your gardening gloves and read on…
Reduce the Risk of Dementia
A study found gardening daily to be the single biggest risk reduction for dementia. The study followed nearly 3,000 older adults for 16 years and assessed a variety of lifestyle factors.
The West Berkshire branch of the Alzheimer’s Society funded a small gardening club designed to encourage physical activity, social interaction and offer opportunities for members to reminisce about their achievements and recall previous weeks gardening activities. Since the gardening club started the society have reported increased confidence amongst members with some individuals starting to garden again at home.
Gardening involves many of our critical functions such as dexterity, problem-solving, sensory awareness and strength all of which are important to continue in later life.
Mental Health Benefits
A combination of the physical activity gardening brings, awareness of your natural surroundings, the cognitive stimulation involved and the satisfaction of seeing your garden bloom are just some of the proven benefits that ‘horticultural’ therapy has brought to patients with depression and mental illnesses.
To nourish all the senses, aim for a combination of vegetables, flowering and scented plants. Why not add a seat so you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. It’s important to have somewhere comfortable to have a rest if you need a break. How about a seating area under a pergola or swinging chair with shade so you can get out of the sun if it gets too hot?
Healthy Heart and Reduces Stroke Risk
A study carried out in Stockholm found that regular gardening cuts the risk of a heart attack or stroke by up to 30% for over 60s. It’s recommended that we should do 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week. Gardening is a rewarding way to get out and do some exercise without joining the local gym.
From raking up leaves to planting vegetables, keeping your garden looking great can involve plenty of walking, bending and pushing. But there are also plenty of gardening tasks which require little physical exertion such as watering plants or pruning. Getting around your garden may be difficult if you suffer from limited mobility. A walking aid can assist you in getting your garden, we would recommend taking a look at our rollators in particular.
If you are worried about bending and kneeling down to garden, raised beds are the ideal way to garden comfortably without putting strain on your joints.
Exposure to Vitamin D (found in sunlight) reduces the risks of heart disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Try and get 10 minutes of sunshine during midday gardening to get your daily dose (we know that’s easier said than done in the UK!).
Stress Release and Self Esteem
A study in the Netherlands found that when two groups were asked to complete a stressful task the group who gardened for 30 minutes afterwards had much lower levels of cortisol known as the stress hormone. Elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to heart disease, obesity, memory issues and immune function.
Growing some of the vegetables used in your Sunday lunch, creating eye-catching flowers beds and getting rid of the weeds which once cluttered your garden are all great achievements which you can be proud of. Maintaining your garden so it’s looking great and being proud of your achievements can have a positive effect on self-esteem.