Every passionate gardener will tell you that tending a garden is different from any other hobby, setting aside the obvious health benefits. It’s difficult to explain why - maybe because you’re investing in delayed gratification. Maybe it’s the fresh air, the brown earth, or the visual delight. Maybe, when we beautify our environments, we are also uplifting our minds and our souls.
Then, there’s also the immense benefit to our physical health - gardening is surprisingly energetic.
Gardening for health benefits and happiness
Gardening offers surprising health benefits to both your mental and physical well-being. It’s an anti-inflammatory activity for the mind while it exercises the body. Plugging out of “life” by connecting with the ground will leave your home beautiful, trimmed, and erupting with glorious colour. Here are the most notable health benefits of gardening, research-backed:
#1 Top Health benefit: Improved oxygen levels in the blood
Gardening is physical exercise. It’s easy to underestimate how much effort it takes from the body to lean over when pulling weeds. Or, to launch a spade into the ground numerous times, or to carry heavy posts, planters, or large plants across the garden.
Cardiovascular exercise (any time you are breathing heavily or sweating) strengthens the heart. It also sends surges of freshly oxygenated blood coursing through the vascular system. This delivers oxygen and nutrients to every organ and cell in the body.
Improved oxygen levels and blood flow keep you strong, healthy, and wards off ageing. This is thanks to the free radicals which are countered by the wonderful fresh blood.
*always check with your doctor that you are fit and able to perform strong cardiovascular exercise if you have a health condition.
#2 Top Health benefit: Regulated blood pressure and heart rate
Stress: the silent killer. It affects every part of the body, as the blood is flooded with stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) when we are stressed. High blood pressure is one of the most obvious side effects of stress.
Shed the stress by digging deep in the garden. Your mind will naturally begin to wonder as you enter a state of quiet. Without realising it, you also breathe deeper when you are outdoors. This regulates your heart rate and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (taking you out of “fight or flight”).
#3 Top Health benefit: Stronger immune responses
When you are gardening, you are exposed to sunlight. The added vitamin D is vital for the immune system. Vitamin D helps to protect your body against the flu virus, it boosts energy levels and fights depression.
The immune system works the way any muscle of the body works - it needs exercise. Research indicates that stronger immune responses are observed in individuals who are exposed to elements like soil and plants.
#4 Top Health benefit: Reduce dementia risk
Interesting research is being done around this topic. A recent study examined 876 people around the age of 78 years. They examined the brain via MRI scans before and after exercise. Activities like gardening, or dancing, the hippocampus (the part of the brain that controls memory) physically increased. They found the patients’ cognitive abilities increased, brain activity increased, and memory atrophy (loss) shrunk.
The moral of the story? Get gardening! No one else is going to remember to water the hydrangeas often enough.
#5 Top Health benefit: Increased bone density
High-impact exercise builds stronger bones. Doctors know this, the challenge is that by the time people need it most, it’s already difficult to implement. Start high-impact exercise before you start to suffer from weak bone density.
Gardening is beneficial in building stronger bones, don’t shy away from heaving digging, tugging, jumping, and carrying. Make sure you use the correct gardening accessories and tools . Also, observe proper technique/good posture to prevent injuries.
#6 Top Health benefit: Decreased depression and lower anxiety levels
The modern lifestyle our society finds itself in today can overwhelm many people. There are constant deadlines, appointment times, meetings, traffic, and other stresses. It’s easy to fall into a “what is the point of all of this” mindset.
Psychologists have been experimenting with new approaches to treating mental challenges like depression and anxiety. One of the most poignant and challenging symptoms of depression is a lack of energy and motivation - almost like your muscles are heavy and weak.
Gardening is one of the activities that has shown enormous promise in treating the heaviness associated with depression. The simple activity and movements can pull that frozen feeling from the body, literally shrugging it away. The satisfaction and reward when your garden comes to fruition are deeply rewarding too. Gardening may not cure any mental disorders, but it certainly can improve the severity of the symptoms.
Tend your health - grow flowers in your garden
Winter bulbs are on sale now. In South Africa, we have some of the most fantastic winter flower bulbs. It may be a dry season (in many provinces) but it can still be delightfully bright and colourful. View Hadeco’s premium-grade flower bulbs.