Most of us consider gardening as a hobby or a pastime activity, but there are many who derive immense pleasure and satisfaction from the plants and trees they grow. Such people love spending time watching the plants they grow, the butterflies and birds that frequent the place, the whistling winds, the vibrant flowers and even the bugs and worms.
Gardening and Health
Gardening is one such activity where you interact with nature, and it is believed that nature has healing powers. Till date, various studies have been conducted about the link between gardening and better health. Almost all of them came up with positive results.
It has been suggested that gardening is good for both physical and mental well-being. It is also considered a form of exercise and is said to be beneficial for burning calories too.
Physical Benefits of Gardening
We all know that gardening involves physical activities like digging, weeding, watering, mowing, feeding, planting, and transplanting, etc. Though the type and intensity of these activities may not be the same for everyone, it is said that regular physical activities for around 30 minutes (daily) is beneficial for health.
In case of gardening activities, most of the major muscle groups are involved, thereby increasing strength and flexibility of the body. Such activities are also beneficial for respiratory as well as cardiovascular system.
Recent researches suggest that gardening activities (if done regularly) may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and diabetes. Gardening is also said to provide you with a good sleep. It is also beneficial for boosting the immune system.
Another gardening health benefit is the exposure to sunshine, which provides you with the vitamin D. Those who grow their own food have a fresh supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables without any harmful chemicals. It has been noted that kids, who grow vegetables and fruits are less finicky in eating such fresh food.
According to some researches, even older adults can benefit from gardening. They can indulge in activities like mixing soil, watering plants, filling pots, etc., and this is good for improving their hand strength. But, if you have a gardener who does all the work, then it is of no use as far as the physical health benefits of gardening is concerned.
Is Gardening a Good Exercise?
Of course, gardening is a form of exercise as it involves some physical activities. As mentioned, most of the major muscle groups are involved in activities that constitute gardening, thereby improving the strength and flexibility of the body. But, this does not mean that you stop doing other exercises, like cycling and walking.
The health benefits are only an added advantage. Though gardening is mainly done for pleasure, it can be considered a form of exercise, if done regularly for at least 30 minutes (per day), provided it consists of moderate intensity activities. You may also get rid of the mechanized gardening tools and start using the manual ones.
Some of the gardening activities (especially strenuous ones) aid calorie burning too. According to researchers, mild to moderate gardening activities for an hour result in burning 300 calories, whereas strenuous activities for the same time period result in burning 600 calories. For mowing a lawn, you burn 360 calories per hour.
This is almost similar to an hour of transplanting trees/shrubs or weeding. In case of digging holes and spading, you burn around 300 calories per hour. The amount of calories burnt is calculated on the basis of the type and intensity of the activity and the body type and gender of the person.
If your doctor has asked you to abstain from strenuous activities for health reasons, it will be better to avoid such gardening activities too. Otherwise, you can balance it with other forms of exercise.
Mental Health Benefits of Gardening
So, gardening is generally considered a feel-good activity and those who indulge in it are found to be happy and content. Studies show that gardening can ward off depression, anxiety and stress to a large extent. It is believed that nature has healing powers that help people recover from mental and physical stress.
Even people with disabilities show an improvement in their physical as well as mental health, when surrounded by pictures of nature. According to an eminent scientist of environmental psychology, watching nature is almost similar to meditation. It makes a person forget everything and feel relaxed.
As you watch a new bud or smell a flower, you stop thinking or worrying, and then your senses are filled with just the smell. If nature has such a healing effect, then why not make use of it? Nowadays, you may find horticultural therapists who help people overcome physical, social, emotional, as well as cognitive problems through gardening activities.
Even a peaceful natural setup is found to be useful for this purpose. A garden is where you can relax, feel happy and content. When you indulge in gardening, you forget your worries and feel at peace with yourself. However, there is no point in doing it forcefully, without any innate interest.
So, if you don't have a garden, try to make one with the help of some gardening tips from a friend or neighbor. Those with space constraints may opt for a small one or a windowsill garden. Try to involve your kids in this activity, as love for nature is something that has to be instilled at a young age.