From the Garden: Health Benefits of Gardening

By Erin Breglia

Imag­ine it’s one of those glo­ri­ous spring days: warm, that earthy smell, bird song, cobalt blue skies. You can’t help but spend your entire day in the yard rak­ing and weed­ing, per­haps plant­i­ng some seeds and fill­ing a few planters. After­wards you sit back feel­ing sat­is­fied, tak­ing it all in and relax­ing with your feet up. It is no sur­prise that you feel pret­ty darn good, your heart­beat ele­vat­ed and your mus­cles a lit­tle sore. You even obtained some well-deserved Vit­a­min D for your efforts. These ben­e­fits are just the begin­ning of a long (and grow­ing) list as more and more research exam­ines the effects of gar­den­ing on mind and body.

Hor­ti­cul­ture ther­a­py-based stud­ies have con­clud­ed that gar­den­ing brings a sense of well-being and stress reduc­tion with it. It also decreas­es the like­li­hood of stroke and oth­er heart dis­eases, demen­tia, Alzheimer’s, post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der (PTSD), anx­i­ety, and depres­sion. Most recent­ly, gar­den­ing has been linked to cen­te­nar­i­an sta­tus,” that is, liv­ing to be 100 years old. By con­nect­ing to the nature that sur­rounds us, we also con­nect with a deep­er part of our­selves, which leads us, uncon­scious­ly, to want to nur­ture our well-being. It is no coin­ci­dence that gar­dens are crop­ping up at hos­pi­tals and reha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ters, cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ties, schools, libraries, nurs­ing homes, and com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters of all kinds. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in a grow­ing sea­son that moves from seed to flower and see­ing the fruits of one’s labor are not only their own rewards but a pow­er­ful moti­va­tor for living.

Gar­den­ing pro­vides an excel­lent oppor­tu­ni­ty for prob­lem solv­ing – set­ting a goal and for­mu­lat­ing the means, from task to task, to that end. The expen­di­ture of brain pow­er helps us feel sat­is­fied and smart! Even time spent on a brain­less” task, such as rak­ing, or remov­ing a large patch of weeds from a bed, can be the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to med­i­tate, reflect, or plan. This con­tem­pla­tive prac­tice can be revi­tal­iz­ing and heal­ing to one’s emo­tion­al self, and often con­jures up feel­ings of for­give­ness and let­ting go. 

On the phys­i­cal lev­el, main­te­nance gar­den­ing also encour­ages dex­ter­i­ty in our hands and fin­gers, as well as the larg­er mus­cles, and there are many tools to com­pen­sate for aging.

Yes, gar­den­ers get their hands dirty. But stud­ies have shown that the friend­ly” soil bac­te­ria, Mycobac­teri­um vac­cae (com­mon in gar­den dirt and absorbed by inhala­tion or inges­tion of veg­eta­bles), have been found to pump up our immune sys­tems and some­times alle­vi­ate symp­toms of pso­ri­a­sis, aller­gies, and asth­ma. Expo­sure to the bac­te­ria has also been known to alle­vi­ate pain by an unex­plained euphor­ic sen­sa­tion that mim­ics runner’s high.”

To expe­ri­ence at least some of these health ben­e­fits, please con­sid­er join­ing the Lan­dis Arbore­tum Gar­den Club when we spring clean the gar­dens at Lan­dis (April 9, 10 AM — noon). And how about tak­ing our Intro­duc­tion to Con­tem­pla­tive Gar­den­ing class (August 17, 10 AM – noon)? Both events, as well as many oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to bring you into con­tact with the nat­ur­al world, are described in the Arboretum’s 2019 Cal­en­dar of Events.

Spring 2019

Volume 37 , Number 1

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