Gardening has long been known as a great way to get outdoors
and enjoy fresh air and sunshine. And gardening has hidden benefits that can
boost your overall health including better brain health.
You don’t need a big plot of land to enjoy gardening.
Use containers on a porch or patio to grow a wide variety of fruits or
vegetables. A five-gallon bucket with holes for drainage can be used to grow a
great crop of tomatoes.
Even if you aren’t actively involved in gardening, just
walking in a garden can give you a sensory experience that promotes relaxation
and reduces stress.
Here are several ways gardening boosts your health and
Low Impact Exercise
Gardeners love to get outdoors and work with their
hands. Because of that, gardening keeps you exercising even when a gym may not
work for you.
Gardening is certainly not the same as pumping iron or
running a marathon. But when you are digging, planting, and doing other tasks
you have opportunities for low impact exercise.
Gardeners who do more physical work like hauling
wheelbarrows of rocks or dirt get quite a workout.
No matter what level of exercise you do, gardening will
help keep you limber.
When you walk among beautiful flowers and watch
vegetables spring up, it’s easy to see why gardening enriches the mind. But
have you thought about gardening as a tonic for reducing stress? If not, you should. A recent study in the Netherlands suggests that
gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities.
Participants in the study either read indoors or
gardened for 30 minutes. Afterward, the group that gardened reported being in a
better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the
stress hormone cortisol.
Most of us push ourselves to the max, but gardening
really does make you slow down and literally smell the roses.
Tracking Your Accomplishments
Gardeners love to keep records. It would be difficult to
remember from year to year what plants did well and those that didn’t thrive in
specific locations, under what conditions, and especially if you have a large
vegetable, fruit and flower garden.
That’s why gardeners love to keep photos of what they
planted, before and after shots, and notes about their garden’s progress. Since
it would be difficult to remember every detail of last year’s garden when you
get ready to plant again this year, a photo journal along with written records
can make you a more effective and efficient gardener.
Those journals are handy reviews of what to plant again
and what to forego. Notes written by hand or typed on your computer will also
give you another benefit. When you keep track of your gardening
accomplishments, you’re apt to better remember the details.
And what’s more, you’ll be boosting your brain health by
sharpening your memory and recall skills.
Gardening has proven to be a good way to change your
mood for the better.
A Norwegian study followed participants with mood
disorders who spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables.
After three months, half of the participants had experienced
a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. Even after they stopped gardening, their good
moods continued three months after the gardening experiment was over.
Growing your own food has the obvious benefit of being
able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Several studies have shown that
people who garden eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than people who don’t
have home gardens.
Growing your own garden also gives you the convenience
of trying new things. You may not buy arugula at the grocery store but now that
you’re having success with it at home, it stretches your thinking—what else
could you plant that you’ve never thought about before?
Mark Underwood is
a neuroscience researcher, president, and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a
biotech company located in Madison, Wisconsin focused on the discovery,
development, and commercialization of novel technologies to support cognitive
function and other age-related health challenges such as memory. He has been
taped as an expert in the field of neuroscience for The Wall Street Journal
Morning Radio, CBS, and CNN Radio among others. He is also a contributor to the
“Brain Health Guide” which highlights the research at Quincy Bioscience and
offers practical tips to help keep healthy brain function in aging. More
information can be found at www.quincybioscience.com.
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