Carol Siddall, Master Gardener

Those with green thumbs have long known that gardening is good for you both physically and mentally.  Researchers have found that smelling the roses and pulling up those nasty weeds can lower blood pressure, increase brain activity, and produce a general good feeling. This evidence has become so compelling that the health factor has been given its own name – HORTICULTURAL THERAPY.

Doing research for this article I found many different topics of why gardening is good for us and can prolong our lives. One blog I read stated there is evidence that gardeners can live up to 14 years longer than non-gardeners.

  • You garden during the day, so you are naturally getting Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is protective against some types of cancer and heart disease.
  • Playing in the dirt: soil is a rich source of natural bacteria, minerals, and microorganisms.  Touching the soil on a regular basis exposes the body to beneficial microorganisms that can boost the immune system.  Larry Dossey, M.D. stated that children who are exposed to dirt in the formative years develop healthier, stronger immune systems when compared to children whose parents keep them from digging in the dirt.
  • Gardening is a stress reliever. Stress negatively affects us and can increases the risk of disease.
  • Gardening is exercise. Lifting plants and soil, raking, digging, pulling weeds – it all requires low-level activity and weight lifting. These activities provide the positive benefits of exercise in a relaxing way.
  • Gardening burns   You can burn up to 330 calories during one hour of light gardening and yard work.
  • Gardening decreases the likelihood of osteoporosis. Digging, planting, weeding, and engaging in repetitive tasks that require strength or stretching, helps major muscle groups get a good work out.
  • Gardening may lower the risk of dementia. Some research suggests that it is the physical activity associated with gardening that can help lower the risk of developing dementia by 36 to 47% over non-gardeners.
  • Horticultural therapy has become recognized treatment for stress and depression.  This has served as a healing aid in settings ranging from prisons and mental health treatment facilities to schools and hospitals.  Tailored gardening programs have been shown to increase quality of life for people with anxiety as well as with depression.  In jails and corrective programs, horticultural therapy  programs have been used to give inmates positive, purposeful activities that lessen aggression and hostility during and after incarceration.
  • School Gardening – studies show that students who have worked on designing, creating, and maintaining gardens develop more positive attitudes about health, nutrition, and the consumption of vegetables. These children also score better in science, have better attitudes about school, and improve their classroom behavior.
  • Gardening with our older people in nursing homes and related facilities has shown a powerful health-promoting activity. Even if they cannot dig in the dirt or pull weeds, they may can hold a water hose, and be company for someone that is digging or pulling weeds.

These are just a few of the reasons why we should garden to help us live longer.  Most of us, along with our children and grandchildren, spend too much time indoors in front of a television or playing video games.  Maybe this next year we can all plan to spend more time in our garden.  Who knows what the outcome will be, but I am betting on a great time getting to that outcome!.





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