It’s that time of year. Growing season is upon us, and aside from the actual fruits of your labor, there are multiple health benefits to gardening.
Get Outside and Get Your Vitamin D
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. Vitamin D is needed to maintain healthy bones. Outdoor activities, such as gardening, drive folks outside to soak up the sun, and thereby increase their vitamin D levels. So get out there, and enjoy the added health benefit of increasing this much needed vitamin, which will have lasting effects on your health. Just remember to pack your sunscreen!
Lower Risk of Dementia
Studies have also found that gardening could lower the risk of dementia by 36%. Researchers tracked just under 3,000 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.
Gardening Can Improve Mood and Reduce Stress
A recent study out of the Netherlands, suggests that gardening fights stress even better than other hobbies. 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. There is a great sense of accomplishment that is achieved by watching something that you have planted and grown with your own hands – flower, fruit and produce.
Gardening as Exercise
I don’t know about you, but I feel like the best way to get exercise is by doing something that you enjoy. You’re much more likely to exercise, if you’re having fun while you do it. Gardening is one of those activities, that while purposeful and possibly a bit tedious at times, can give you a great workout when you least expect it. Bending, stretching, pulling, twisting, lifting watering cans are all giving you the benefits of physical activity while your mind is focused on tending to your garden. These activities can improve your overall flexibility, strength, stamina and balance. Before you know it, you’ll likely break a sweat and have experienced a great overall workout without even realizing it!
Community Gardens Help Reduce Loneliness
Not enough land to have a garden on your property? Check with your local Parks and Recreation Department to find out if your community has a community garden. These are typically large areas of land with cordoned off, rentable garden spaces. Grab a friend, pick up some seeds or plants and get started. The added health benefit of this type of space, is the broader opportunity to socialize with others who also enjoy gardening.
And, as we age, many people struggle to find groups to socialize with – think about it, you were around people every day at work. Once you retire, you need to look for opportunities to get together with others. Gardening can be a great way to accomplish this. These gardens tend to be part of neighborhood beautification programs or programs that help provide fresh produce to those less fortunate in your community. Getting involved in a community garden can lead you to other opportunities to help and volunteer in your community, which will help you grow your social network.