According to the World Health Organization, good health means more than just the absence of bad health symptoms. It means the presence of positive emotions, quality of life, sense of community and happiness. (WHO 1948)
So if you’ve been living life with a little voice in your head whispering, “Psst! You should start a garden,” it’s for good reason.
The health benefits of outdoor gardening–including backyard gardening and community gardening–range from increased nutrients in your diet to staving off chronic diseases.
Here are eight surprising health benefits of gardening.
1. Home Grown Self-Esteem
Maybe you’re someone who has always felt his or her thumb to be conspicuously not-green. But after tilling, planting, nurturing and harvesting plants, you might see a slightly different person in the mirror. A person who can grow things. A person a little more in tune with the earth. A gardener, whose thumb does seem to emit a shade of green after all!
It always feels good to accomplish new tasks, and if you can grow a garden, what can’t you do?
2. Gardening for Heart Health
You’re burning calories and strengthening your heart when you’re out in the garden. You do know that, right?
According to WebMD, “Activities such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects and housework may be as good as formal exercise when it comes to reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke.” Heart health: Now that’s quite a bonus.
3. Gardening Reduces Stress
A Dutch study asked two groups of people to complete a stressful task and concluded that gardening for 30 minutes after said task resulted in lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone associated with stress. Had a rough day? Get in your garden and let the stress melt away.
Stress is a HUGE health risk, so this benefit of gardening is a big deal, folks.
4. Happiness in the Dirt
How does a dynamic, beautiful landscape that you know intimately, that you are in fact responsible for creating, make you feel? Probably pretty happy.
There’s also a scientific reason that gardening makes you happy. Studies suggest that inhaling M. vaccae, a healthy bacteria that lives in soil, can increase levels of serotonin and reduce anxiety. According to Discover Magazine, “you get a dose [of M. vaccae] just by taking a walk in the wild or rooting around in the garden” and this “could help elicit a jolly state of mind.”
5. You’ll Sleep Better
Research at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that the light activity associated with gardening can help you sleep better at night.
Sleep is so vital to good health; this is a benefit you shouldn’t ignore.
6. Improved Hand Strength
All that digging, planting, and pulling does more than produce plants. Gardening activities will increase your hand strength. What a great way to keep your hands and fingers as strong as possible for as long as possible.
7. Gardening for Family Health
Gardening can be a solo activity, or an opportunity for bonding with your family and friends. The happiness and stress relief that gardening provides is a great thing to share with loved ones. Also, gardening has special benefits for kids. Early exposure to dirt has been linked to all kinds of long-term health benefits, from reducing allergies to autoimmune diseases.
8. Growing Vegetables for Financial Health
There are definitely ways that gardening might actually be costly, but if you do it right, you can save a lot of money on food by growing your own. To save the most cash by growing your own produce, grow vegetables that are expensive to buy and vegetables that you can easily store or preserve by canning, freezing, dehydrating, or pickling.
April is coming to a close, but it’s not too late to start a garden. Instead of starting from seed, you can buy some baby plants. For some advice on starting your first garden, check out these tips.
At UNC REX, we love gardening so much that we keep an herb garden where we grow herbs used in our award-winning cuisine.