The Top Physical and Mental Benefits of Gardening

Megan Ray  |  June 2, 2015

Many people love to garden - it's great to witness sprouts coming out of the ground for the first time after getting your hands dirty all day. Gardens are also aesthetically pleasing and make your yard look a lot nicer in the spring and summer months. Aside from appearances, gardening can have a few health benefits for seniors as well, aside from senior nutrition. Consider these positive health effects to encourage you to get out there and get digging.

Building bones
Gardening can help improve bone mass and density, which many seniors tend to lose as they get older, according to a study from the University of Arkansas. The researchers used 3,300 women who were 50 or older in the study, the National Wildlife Federation stated. They discovered that women who gardened at least once a week had higher bone density than women who didn't perform this activity and instead decided to do other types of exercise. Believe it or not, gardening is a tough workout. It combines two things needed to build strong bones - strength training and yard work. People do a lot of bending, lifting, walking, squatting and so on, all which adds up over time. CHealth noted that in a one-hour gardening session, people can burn around 250 calories. If your session gets really intense, you may even burn more than that! This workout is much better than one like brisk walking that only burns 100 calories or so. 

Of course, gardening is a fairly leisurely task so it doesn't strain people too much but does have significance over time. Despite this slow-paced activity, there are a few wrong and right ways to do it. If you haven't gotten out to your garden in a while, don't jump back into it. Instead, try baby steps. Before you start laying out your garden, perform a few weeks' worth of stretching exercises for your legs and arms. During your first couple gardening outings, change positions every 20 to 30 minutes, and give yourself 10-minute breaks to rest. 

Lifting sprits
Research has proven that creating and growing a garden can help boost people's moods and lift their spirits. In 2011, researchers from the Netherlands asked participants to complete a stressful task. Then the group was divided, as one group was asked to garden for 30 minutes and the other was requested to read inside. While both are relaxing tasks, the gardening outweighed the reading. The participants were notably more relaxed, and they had the cortisol levels to prove it. Cortisol is a hormone that's released any time a person gets really stressed. If a person has continuously high cortisol levels, that may be a bad sign, as this hormone has been linked to causing several health conditions or worsening preexisting ones. People may feel good after planting because of the expectation of helping the earth while benefiting themselves with some fresh fruit or vegetables. 

Improving the heart
Studies have also found that gardening may benefit the heart. In 2012, one Stockholm-based study found that people over the age of 60 who gardened cut their heart and stroke risk by nearly 30 percent, according to the Guardian. People are also getting outside, which boosts their vitamin D levels. Research has revealed that people with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to develop heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions, Johns Hopkins noted. As gardening provides people with a good workout, this activity can help get the heart pumping and boost circulation. Try to squeeze in at least 30 minutes of gardening in one session or it may not be that effective, and move around often to avoid staying in one position.

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