Power of the Petal: the Benefits of Gardening

It’s safe to say that spring is finally here; between all the rain and shine that has come, the trees and bushes are budding, the grass is getting greener, and gardeners all around the area are rejoicing because this is their favorite time of year. Gardening season has arrived.

Gardening can seem like a lot of work, but there are many hidden health benefits to gardening beyond the blooming flowers.  For instance, just being outside is good for a person’s health. When outside gardening, the body soaks up a lot of vitamin D from the sun which helps the immune system fight off colds and other pesky illnesses.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gardening is considered a “moderate-intensity level activity” and gardening for only 2.5 hours a week can significantly reduce the risk for things like heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

The CDC also considers gardening as low-impact exercise, which means it is not too stressful for the joints but still boosts cardiovascular health. Because of this, people are more likely to garden for an average of 40-50 minutes longer than other exercises.

Not only is gardening good for your physical health, but it also works wonders for your mental health. A Dutch study asked two groups of people to complete a stressful activity. When they were done, one group went inside and read a book while the other group went outside and gardened. The second group that gardened reported having a better overall mood and also lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone and with too much exposure to cortisol can cause problems like heart disease.

Gardening is also good for people struggling with mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder or any disease that can cause a low mood. The combination of the sun, exercise and nature can elevate a person’s spirit.

A study done in Norway found people diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, and had them garden for six months. This experiment found that almost all patients had a decrease in their depression symptoms and continued to feel better for up to three months after the experiment was over.

Gardening may seem like a lot of work, but the benefits of gardening for a person’s health are too good to pass up on. If dedicating time to a whole garden is too much, start small. Go to a local garden store and pick up some seeds, a pot and some dirt and start there.