5 benefits of gardening you may not know

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It’s gardening season!

Did you know that gardening is good for your physical health AND for your mental health as well? It has been found to relieve stress, tension and even increase self-esteem.

Five benefits of gardening you may not know

  1. Strengthens your immune system

    The sun exposure you get while gardening makes your body produce Vitamin D. This vitamin promotes bone health and increases your resistance to infections and other illnesses. Gardening can also be considered an aerobic exercise. It will make you tired, consequently helping you sleep better 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.

    Just remember that you can get all these benefits even with short periods of sun exposure, so it’s good to take breaks. Rest in a shady area and stay hydrated to prevent heatstroke. Always use sunscreen to protect your skin from UV radiation.

  2. Prevents depression

    The combination of physical activity, natural surroundings, and cognitive stimulation can lift your mood and reduce stress. Who can stay sad looking at fresh greenery and beautiful flowers? Another positive result from gardening is the feeling of accomplishment once you’ve successfully made 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 is the best combination to nourish the senses and stimulate thought.

  3. 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%.” While the Alzheimer’s study is still on-going, scientists have concluded that gardening has a positive effect on the brain because it involves many of our critical functions. Gardening requires a combination of strength, endurance, dexterity, problem-solving, and sensory awareness.

  4. Improves hand strength and dexterity

    Puttering around with a trowel uses some of the muscles that keep our hands agile and improve grip. In fact, older adults who regularly garden have been found to have better hand strength and pinch force. Just don’t overdo it as you can get strain injuries, tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Also make sure to 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 more gardening tips.

  5. 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”. 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 certainly beats sitting around all day which can increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer (What are the risks of sitting too much?).

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 also find out where to get free seeds, ways to start a garden even in a limited space, and the best plants to grow each season from this guide.

Happy gardening!
Article updated March 21, 2024

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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