Gardening & Your Health

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What are the true benefits?

Story by Cheri Woodsmall

You know the feeling. Waking up early on a bright, sunny morning, filling your new teal Yeti tumbler you got for Mother’s Day full of your favorite coffee and donning those bright, floral gardening gloves you fell in love with last year (when they were on sale, of course!) Things are about to get dirty. But in a good way!

Being out in the garden provides us with dozens of positive health benefits. Sure, it gets the endorphins going – who doesn’t love to be outside on a beautiful summer day? But did you know gardening benefits the mind, body, and soul and it provides stress relief, physical activity, and stimulation for your brain? 

It Keeps The Brain Sharp

Gardening helps to keep one’s mind sharp in multiple ways. For example, some studies have found that daily gardening can improve your brain health and significantly reduce the risk for dementia. The process of gardening involves numerous brain functions and all of that activity provides strength in ways far beyond what most people would realize.

Huffington Post notes that some studies have shown that gardening is linked to mental clarity, and it also promotes problem solving, learning, and sensory awareness. Gardening is known to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, but evidence points toward it also strengthening the brain and reducing the risk for Alzheimer’s to a degree that cannot be ignored.

It Lowers Stress Hormones

Gardening fights stress even better than other hobbies, suggested a study in the Netherlands, cited by CNN. Participants completed a stressful task and were then told to read inside or go outdoors and garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group reported better moods afterward, and their blood tests showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

It Gives You A Boost To Vitamin D 

Vitamin D increases your calcium levels, which benefits your bones and immune system. A 2014 Italian study, published on the National Institutes of Health website, found that exposure to sunlight helped older adults achieve adequate serum vitamin D levels. So outdoor activities like gardening are a perfect way to get your sunshine while pursuing a fun hobby. (But don’t forget the sunscreen to protect your skin, and sunglasses for your eyes.)

It Helps Regulate Your Immune System

Not only does the Vitamin D you’re soaking in from the summer sun help you fight off colds and flus, but it turns out even the dirt under your fingernails may be working in your favor! The “friendly” soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae — common in garden dirt and absorbed by inhalation or ingestion on vegetables — has been found to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis, allergies and asthma: all of which may stem from an out-of-whack immune system. This particular organism has also been shown to alleviate depression, so go ahead and get your hands dirty. Researchers are still speculating how our immune system may interact with our brains and play into a variety of mental health issues in addition to our ability to fend off infection: inflammation may provide the key link.

It Improves Your Strength and Dexterity

Lifting, pulling, carrying – all these exercises use your hands and will improve your strength. Carrying large rocks to set in a dry creek, for example, will strengthen your hands and give you better grip if they are irregular shaped.

Pulling weeds and digging in this stubborn Kansas dirt, requires a level of dexterity and will improve your grip. Grabbing onto those sturdy weeds and getting them out of your flowerbeds might seem like a chore but bear in mind how it is improving your hands and it will seem less of a task. Just make sure to wear those cute gloves!

Even lifting a wheelbarrow will improve your grip, hanging onto the handles will give you greater strength in your hands as well as your lower arms. If you struggle with opening jars or other tasks around the home, then a few hours gardening a week could easily improve your grip strength and make everyday chores seem easier!

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start gardening your way to better health today! 

Sources: Huffington Post, CNN, Reader’s Digest, WebMD

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