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The Health Benefits of Gardening

Many of us are looking for natural ways to improve our physical and mental health. While doctors may prescribe a “pill for any ill” it’s good to take some personal control of your health. Popular strategies include exercise, meditation and improving nutrition. I have recently started gardening myself: weeding, pruning and leaf blowing and I got to thinking “how does gardening affect wellbeing?” Intuitively, I knew that gardening was good for health: it’s great physical exercise, it gets you outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and it gives you lots of time for reflecting on your life. But I wondered if there was research to back up my hunch.

Woman Gardening

Woman Gardening Courtesy of Graphic Stock.

The Benefits of Gardening: The King’s Fund Study

A 2016 report by the King’s Fund, in the UK, looked at the links between gardens, gardening and health. They performed a comprehensive review of the literature and found overwhelming evidence that gardens and gardening are good for you.

Children and School Gardening

Studies show that gardening in schools:

  • Improves children’s fruit and vegetable intake, especially when parents are involved.
  • Enhances general well-being.
  • Improves personal achievement and pride in ‘growing’ and social functioning.
  • Provides opportunities for vocational development.
  • Breaks down social boundaries.
  • For “Children with learning difficulties or behavioural problems, gardening… (is valuable) as a non-academic task and the garden as a place of peace and meditation.”
  • Reduces depression and anxiety.

For adults studies show that gardening:

  • Improves mood, self-esteem and general wellbeing.  
  • Promotes an active lifestyle and contribute to healthy ageing.
  • Decreases stress, lowers cortisol levels and increases in positive mood.
  • Helps restore attention and mental function.
  • Improves social connections: when done as a group activity.
  • Significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety  and enhanced emotional wellbeing.
  • Improves physical health.
  • Provides opportunities for vocational development.

I think you’ll agree these are impressive benefits and they have convinced me that I should continue gardening. My only slight problem is a profound lack of knowledge. Clearing leaves with a leaf blower is easy, once you’ve figured out how to turn the thing on. However, other things in the garden require more knowledge. I recently pruned (AKA hacked) a forsythia bush, only to discover that they should only be pruned after they have flowered in the spring. If you are keen but uneducated like me, have no fear help is at hand!

Learning Gardening Skills

New Canaan Nature Center are joining forces with the New York Botanical Gardens to offer a series of gardening classes in New Canaan:

  • Pruning: How, When, and Where. November 12th, 2016. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Perennial Plant Combinations: February 2nd, 2017. 10.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Intro to Landscape Design: March 9th, 2017. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information visit: http://bit.ly/2dhWlJu

Research Source:

https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/files/kf/field/field_publication_file/Gardens_and_health.pdf

Dr Leonaura Rhodes