It’s gardening season!
Gardening is a great activity you can get into during the pandemic. Not only is it good for your physical health but for your mental health as well. Did you know that it has been found to relieve stress, tension and even increase self-esteem?
Five benefits of gardening you may not know
Strengthens your immune system
The sun exposure you get while gardening makes your body produce Vitamin D. It promotes bone health and increases your resistance to infections and other illnesses. Planting activities will also tire you out and help you have better sleep at night. Getting enough sleep (ideally 7-8 hours) helps our bodies produce infection-fighting antibodies and proteins called cytokines, which are essential for regulating immunity, inflammation and the formation of blood cells.
We get all these benefits even with short periods of sun exposure so remember to take breaks. Rest in a shady area and stay hydrated to prevent heat stroke. Always use sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn.
The combination of physical activity, natural surroundings and cognitive stimulation lifts your mood and reduces stress. I mean, who can stay sad thinking about fresh greenery and beautiful flowers? Another aspect is the feeling of accomplishment after successfully helping plants and flowers grow. This can have long-lasting positive effects on your mental health. If you are prone to depression, experts suggest planting a mix of fruits, scented flowers and herbs. This combination nourishes the senses and stimulates thought.
Increases brain health and prevents Alzheimer’s
A long term study found that “daily gardening represented the biggest risk reduction for dementia, reducing incidence by 36%” (as cited from 6 unexpected health benefits of gardening, Robin Jacobs). While scientists are still studying this complex illness and how gardening affects its progression, scientists theorize that it has a positive effect on the brain because it involves many of our critical functions. Gardening requires a combination of strength, endurance, dexterity, learning, problem solving, and sensory awareness.
Improves hand strength and dexterity
Puttering around with your trowel uses some of the muscles that keep your hands agile and improve your grip. But don’t overdo it. You can get strain injuries, tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Aside from not overworking, use the right tools, take frequent breaks or switch to different activities to avoid muscle fatigue. Read 5 gardening hazards you should watch out for for other safe gardening tips.
Encourages heart health and cuts stroke risk
A study in Stockholm showed that “regular gardening cuts stroke and heart disease by up to 30% for those over 60 years old” (Gardening as good as exercise in cutting heart attack risk, study shows, Alexandra Topping, The Guardian). It turns out that this kind of moderate exercise promotes heart health better than strenuous exercises (like running) for this age group. However, gardening will be good for your heart and mind whatever your age. It definitely beats having unhealthy quarantine habits like sitting around all day.
If you’re a first-time gardener, you’ll need to be familiar with the best type of plants that grow in Manitoba. A Community Gardener Guidebook compiled by the North End Community/North End Community Network will help you get started. You’ll know where to get free seeds, ways to start a garden (even in a limited space) and the best plants to grow each season. It also suggests online resources for related information.
Article updated April 27, 2020
Sources: What’s good in the garden is good for our health, Rhonda Nowak, Mail Tribune; 6 unexpected health benefits of gardening, Robin Jacobs, Eartheasy; 6 reasons why gardening is good for you, Amanda Hawkins, Good Housekeeping; How Vitamin D influences the body’s immune system, Alan L. Rubin, Vitamin D for Dummies; and Is gardening the key to preventing Alzheimer’s? Lisa Ryan, Daily Mail. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
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