Three beneficial health effects of gardening

When the topic of gardening comes up in conversation it certainly divides the opinions of Brits. Some of us are fully fledged green fingered wizards, some of us dabble with a few colourful plants and perhaps a lush green lawn, and some plain and simply see gardening as a massive chore. Here’s how gardening can have a positive effect on your health.
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Gardening relieves stress

Did you know a 2010 Dutch study conducted by Agnes E. Van Den Berg, Wageningen University and Research Centre and Mariëtte H.G. Custers, Leiden University & Wageningen University and Research Centre, found that gardening affects stress levels in a positive way?

In the experiment, two groups were asked to complete an intense and stressful task. Following completion, one group was sent to read indoors for 30 minutes whilst the others were sent out into the garden. The results found that the gardening group reported better moods than the reading group and, more scientifically, that they had measurably lower levels of cortisol, “the stress hormone”. Both gardening and reading led to decreases in cortisol levels during the recovery period of the study, but were significantly stronger in the gardening group.

The report explains that a positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading. The findings from the 2010 study provided the first experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress!

Gardening benefits our mental health

Psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Sue Stuart-Smith wrote in depth about the mental health benefits gardening boasts, in 2014. In her writing she explains that she turns to gardening, like many others, as a way of calming the mind after a hard week at work. She also notes that research carried out by the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) showed that more than a third of people questioned (39 per cent) said that being in a garden makes them feel healthier, while 79 per cent believe that access to a garden is essential for quality of life.

Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of Thrive, one of the UK’s leading charities in disability and gardening backs up this sentiment saying:

“as well as the strong therapeutic value of gardening it can help people connect with others, reducing feelings of isolation. It makes us more active, gaining both physical and mental health benefits.”

Another charity, The Growing Space, states that people who have gardened with them have reported benefits including: Relief from the stresses and strains in other areas of their life, increased confidence and self-worth. New strategies for recognising the triggers of anxiety or depression and developing daily and weekly routines that helped with emotional stability.

Gardening helps with hand strength

It’s natural that as we age our body begins to weaken. One thing regular gardening does is keeps your hands active, meaning muscles in your green fingers are getting regular exercise – much more so than those who don’t have a passion for all things green. It’s essentially outdoor, free of charge, physiotherapy, strength building in your hands. However, make sure not to do too much, as with anything, you can damage your hands from over working them. Changing tasks before strain is a quick tip for when you’re out in the garden and using the correct, ergonomic tools will benefit you greatly.