13 Radical Reasons Why Gardening Is Critically Important For Your Health

If you’ve only thought of gardening as a hobby to take up when you eventually have some free time in your life, think again!

The results from a plethora of research over the past several years have shown that:

Gardening has a significant positive impact on your health.

It’s a well-known fact that the majority of us, including our children, are addicted to stress, technologically-obsessed, and nature-deprived.

Another piece of disheartening news is that the U.S. is also in the midst of a national health crisis with substantial economic and social implications.

Did you know the following?

1. The U.S. public spends more than 90% of their time indoors, leading an extremely sedentary, disconnected, unhealthy, and unnatural lifestyle.

2. The latest statistics show that 33% of U.S. adults are obese, incurring $148 billion in medical costs annually and contributing to 18% of U.S. adult deaths.

3. Publicly available data shows U.S. healthcare costs are the highest per capita in the world—and that amount continues to increase.

4. Recent research funded by Disney shows that 65% of U.S. parents see it as a “very serious” problem that their kids are not spending more time outdoors. According to the survey, this is equal or a close second to their concerns about bullying, the quality of education, and obesity. Preschoolers spend about 12 hours a week outside, and by the age of 16, our children are spending less than 7 hours a week in nature.

These statistics alone should help you commit to spending more time outdoors in nature and gardening.

But for those of you who may need more of a nudge to get your hands in the dirt, check out this list:

13 Radical Reasons Why Gardening is Critically Important for Your Health

1. Gardening is a stress reliever.

As a matter of fact, it may be an even more effective stress-buster than other leisure activities. In a study in the Netherlands (as reported by CNN), two groups of students were told to either read indoors or garden for thirty minutes after completing a stressful task. The group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the group that read and they also exhibited lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

2. Gardening burns calories.

Gardening is considered moderate to high-intensity exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can burn up to 330 calories during just one hour of light gardening and yard work — more than lifting weights for the same amount of time. The National Institute of Health goes so far as to recommend 30 to 45 minutes of gardening three to five times a week as part of a good strategy

3. Heavy gardening is not only helpful in weight maintenance but also in reducing the risk of heart disease and other life threatening diseases.

Just 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity a few times a week can prevent and control high blood pressure. In fact, gardening scored a place on the The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s recommendation list for battling high blood pressure.

4. Gardening decreases the likelihood of osteoporosis.

When you dig, plant, weed, and engage in repetitive tasks that require strength or stretching, all of the major muscle groups are getting a good work out.

5. Being surrounded by flowers improves your health.

In behavioral research conducted at Rutgers University by Jeanette M. Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., the results showed that flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods and have an immediate impact on happiness, a long term positive effects on mood, and make for more intimate connections between individuals.

6. Gardening enables you to enter the 'zone', also known as flow.

This is a state similar to what a jogger or one who practices yoga or mediation can experience. This transcendent state is a magical and spiritual place where one can experience the best of who they are.

7. Gardening is a way of making meaning out of your life.

Being in the garden and feeling a profound connection to the land affords us the opportunity to focus on beauty and inspires us to experience feelings of awe, gratitude, and abundance.

8. Gardening and flowers have probably served as a means for survival.

For more than 5000 years, people have cultivated flowers.There must be a reason why this practice continues to exist. As Michael Pollan has written, “It was the flower that first ushered the idea of beauty into the world the moment, long ago, when floral attraction emerged as an evolutionary strategy.”

9. Digging in the soil has actual health and ‘mood boosting’ benefits.

There is plenty of evidence showing the validity of the hygiene hypotheses which states that children who are exposed to dirt in the formative years develop healthier and stronger immune systems when compared to children whose parents keep them squeaky clean. Children who play in the dirt also have a lower incidence of asthma, eczema and allergies later in life.

In other words, exposure to dirt in childhood promotes good health.

Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has been injecting mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, and has found that they increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood -- much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.

10. Gardening Improves Relationships and Compassion.

Research shows that people who spend extended lengths of time around plants tend to have better relationships with others.

Studies have shown that people who spend more time around plants are much more likely to try and help others, and often have more advanced social relationships. People who care for nature are more likely to care for others, reaching out to their peers and forming shared bonds resulting from their common interests.

Extended exposure to nature and wildlife increases people’s compassion for each other as it increases people’s compassion for the environment in which they live.

In short, being around plants can help to improve relationships between people and increase their concern and empathy toward others.

11. Gardening may lower the risk of dementia.

Some research suggests that the physical activity associated with gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia. Two separate studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account

12. Gardening can reduce the risk of stroke.

This information was reported in “Stroke: Journal of The American Heart Association”.

13. Gardening allows your body to soak up Vitamin D.

While you’re outdoors basking in the sun, you’ll also soak up plenty of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. In turn, calcium helps keep your bones strong and your immune system healthy.

Fran Sorin is a coach and author of the highly acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening. She is also an inspirational speaker, interfaith minister, and CBS radio news and Psychology Today contributor. She has spent the past 30 years working on herself and with clients on how to live more creatively. Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening is available on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Barnes and Noble stores, and other online and neighborhood booksellers.

Fran’s website, fransorin, focuses on personal development and offers free resources to help improve your life.

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