Enjoy Fresh Outdoors Air For Better Brain Health

Sunday, 14 Apr 2013, 8:56:00 AM

Mark Underwood

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

well-being.

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.

Stress Reduction

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.

Mood Booster

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.

Eat Fresh

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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