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The physical, mental, and social benefits of gardening
Taking the right steps to improve your mental and physical well-being can be difficult, especially when trying to fit it in with your work, home and social life. However, there are activities out there where you can choose how and when you do them, and they can benefit your mental health, physical well-being and social skills massively. Gardening is one of these activities, one which is so broad that there is something to suit the needs of everybody.
People who are new to gardening, or those who aren’t familiar with the technicalities of gardening may not know that gardening is a form of exercise which can target so many aspects of your physical health. For starters, the work involved in gardening, including digging, de-weeding, planting, and raking, uses the majority of a person’s muscle groups, improving overall strength and dexterity. Even those who do indoor gardening, perhaps their focus is houseplants, can keep this up by pruning their plants and repotting them if necessary. Additionally, doing regular exercise can reduce your chances of getting coronary heart disease or having a stroke by 35%.
While we may get an average of 155 – 165 days of rain a year in the UK (• UK: annual rain days 2020 | Statista), gardening is a great thing to do during the nice sunny days. Sunshine is a great provider of vitamin D, which regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body, keeping your bones, teeth, and muscles healthy (Vitamins and minerals – Vitamin D – NHS (www.nhs.uk)), just don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
If you are a grower, or want to be a grower of your own fruit and veg, then gardening is an excellent way of improving your diet. With organic growing, you know exactly what kind of materials you are using, unlike the preservatives and fertilizers which may be used for your average store bought food. Eating the food that you have grown can be very satisfying, and a side bonus is by providing for yourself, you are reducing your use of plastic and packaging!
Australian researchers found that those who regularly gardened had a 36% lower risk of dementia than their non-gardening counterparts (Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo Study of the elderly – PubMed (nih.gov)). The benefits of gardening for mental health have led a rising number of GPs to prescribe gardening as a preventative mechanism of anxiety and depression (Why gardening makes us feel better / RHS Gardening).
A Dutch study found that gardening can alleviate anxiety and reduce stress levels (Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress – PubMed (nih.gov)), and similarly, the RHS revealed that those who garden everyday had stress levels 4.2% lower than those who do not garden at all (Why garden? – Attitudes and the perceived health benefits of home gardening – ScienceDirect). So if you’re ever feeling stressed or are in the need for a mood lifter, try out gardening to make you feel better.
Not only is there evidence of gardening improving physical and mental health, but gardening can also boost your social skills. Gardening is a huge social activity – if you have your own garden in your home, there are hundreds of communities, both in person and online, of gardeners sharing advice and tips on gardening. There are loads of blogs and social media accounts which are dedicated to gardening, and it is so easy to get in touch with people through them. Or if you prefer to meet people in real life, then gardening groups are dotted all around the country. If you own a plot in an allotment, you’re very likely to meet other owners who you’ll get to know and find out what they’re growing, as well as share what you’re growing too.
If you would like to share a story on how gardening has improved your mental, physical, or social well-being, then we would love to hear about it. Send over an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch and together we can spread the messages of the benefits of gardening.
In no way is maintaining a garden a chore. Getting to choose exactly what you grow in your garden, whether its flowers, fruit and vegetables, or perhaps indoor houseplants, you get to pick what makes you happy. And not only do you get to have a beautiful display of plants, but gardening can bring about physical, mental, and social positives into your life.