A study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities such as reading. In the study the gardeners had lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Better mental health
In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or "bipolar II disorder" spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables. After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. Even better, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended.
One of the best things gardening does is get you outside and out of the couch or off the computer. This can only be good for you. Gardening won’t necessarily increase your cardiovascular fitness (unless you are hauling wheelbarrow loads or digging all day) but it does make for an excellent form of low-impact or non-exercise movement. What does this mean? In the garden you are digging, crouching down, weeding, kneeling etc. These are all forms of good movement that you probably wouldn’t do in front of a computer or sitting on the couch.
Gardening can often be a pleasurable task for people, so as a form of exercise it is great as you are more likely to stick to something if you enjoy it.
Gardening may also help with dementia. Two studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for 16 years, found that those who gardened regularly had a 36% and 46% lower risk of dementia, respectively, than non-gardeners. This occurred even when a range of other health factors were taken into account.
If you are growing fruit and veges in your garden, it makes sense then that you are more likely to eat fruits and veges. Studies of after-school gardening programs suggest that kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and they're a lot more adventurous about giving new foods a try.
Walking barefoot on the earth has been shown to have positive benefits on our health. Read a previous blog post on it here. When you are outside, take off your shoes for a while and make the most of walking barefoot on the earth.
If you have read this post and are wanting to run out into the garden and get started, there are a few things to remember to help avoid injuries. Here are the key ones:
- Watch your posture. Gardening does make you move which is great, but you need to be careful when bending and moving. Utilizing the ‘hip hinge’ when bending is great. Also, don’t reach too far forward when weeding etc. If working on the ground make sure you crouch down or kneel, rather than stooping forward.
- Be careful when lifting. Make sure you use correct lifting techniques to help avoid injury. This includes bending your knees, not rounding the back when bending and keeping objects close to you before lifting them.
- Have a break when tired. If you are doing a repetitive activity like digging or raking we often get a bit puffed or tired. In this situation, your brain will focus your diaphragm on breathing more than stability of the lower back (the diaphragm normally plays a big role in stabilizing the lower back). This means you will be more prone to injuries. So if you are puffed, make sure you have a break to recover.
If you do have any aches or pains from gardening or stopping you from getting out into the garden, then call the clinic to arrange a time to have it assessed. The sooner you can get back out there, the sooner you can reap the benefits from gardening. There is one thing for sure…..your body will thank you for it.