Thursday, June 14, 2012

Benefits of Gardening

Thanx to  Winchester Gardens

Posted July 25, 2011 by Winchester Gardens. Filed under Garden Tips.
One obvious reason for gardening is having fresh produce right at your fingertips. While getting fresh ingredients for dinner from your own backyard can save you money, it can also keep you healthy. Gardening provides stress relief, exercise, and can even improve your mental health. Many gardeners say that tending to their plants provides relief from the busy, modern world. That sense of escape and ability to slow things down has clear benefits to keeping your body and mind healthy.

Tending to a garden is a great form of low-impact exercise that is especially useful for those who have trouble with intense exercise. The movements required to maintain a healthy garden not only get your blood flowing, but also improve flexibility and strength.

Other forms of exercise are easy to start and then stop, but planting a garden is a long-term commitment. If you take the time to plant a garden and nurture it from the beginning, chances are you will continue to take care of it with the end goal of producing delicious food or simply maintaining a beautiful backyard. Gardening produces tangible rewards that you can watch develop, providing incentive to continue.

Stress Relief
The sights and smells of gardening relieve stress, helping to lower blood pressure and pulse rate. Many repetitive tasks (knitting, reading, etc.) help provide stress relief by allowing you to focus vaguely on the task at hand, while relaxing your mind from the stress of constant thought.  In a study conducted in the Netherlands, gardening was shown to reduce stress more than other relaxing leisure activities. The study had participants do a stressful task, and then either read or garden for thirty minutes. Those who gardened were in a better mood at the end of the study and had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

In today’s fast-paced world, our attention is constantly being divided between multiple tasks and messages. Multitasking is a must to keep up and technology is the key to keeping everything organized. Unplugging from the constant information overload allows you to lower your stress levels and “get back to your roots.”

Mental Health
People with symptoms of depression may also benefit from gardening. Engaging with nature and the sun by simply taking a walk outside is one important way of staying mentally fit. Sunlight lifts mood as shown in many studies where light therapy was utilized for people with depression. This therapy affects serotonin and melatonin, chemicals in the brain that control mood and health.

One study conducted by Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, showed that when he injected the mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria commonly found in soil, the mice experienced an “increase [in] the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood -- much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.”

This discovery implicates bacteria commonly found in soil as keeping humans healthier. These findings may be related to another study conducted in Norway that showed people diagnosed with depression found their symptoms improved by regular gardening.

Gardening is also therapeutic for a number of other conditions. Some studies suggest that patients recovering from surgery who have plants in their room recover faster, more thoroughly and/or feel less pain. Giving the patient something beautiful to look at can provide a distraction from pain. There is still research being conducted on the subject, but findings thus far seem to be in favor of putting plants in recovery rooms.

Tending to plants daily is also said to reduce your risk of dementia according to two studies, although the reason is not clear.  Many places that care for the elderly, like retirement homes, include wander gardens on site because they allow their residents to reduce stress without worry of getting lost. Also, having residents take care of the garden is beneficial in many ways.

Overall Benefits
The wonderful food that a garden produces is not the only benefit of planting a garden. Having fresh vegetables and fruit on hand to eat does make gardeners more likely to eat healthy, but tending to plants also encourages an active lifestyle and helps improve mental health. Gardening has numerous advantages, so why not start planting today?

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