We know gardening is a simple, rewarding hobby. But did you there are physical and mental health benefits to gardening as well? It’s only recently we’ve begun to recognize how the hobby can be to people of all ages feel stronger and healthier, including seniors.
Reduces Risk of Disease
Many of us don’t get as much physical activity as we should. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that just 2.5 hours moderate physical activity per week can reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoperosis, heart disease, and stroke.
Gardening is a great way to incorporate moderate, full-body exercise into your daily routine. Unlike many activities, like running and cycling, gardening is accessible to those who are older, have disabilities, or suffer from chronic pain. You can do it at your own pace in your own home.
You may have retired, but it’s still important to manage stress in your life. Stress can cause irritability, headaches, stomach aches, and increase your risk of a heart attack.
Fortunately, gardening is a scientifically-proven stress-buster. One study showed that gardening is more effective in easing stress than other leisure activities, like reading a book.
Andrea Faber Taylor, a horticultural instructor and researcher, says it’s the repetitive, soothing nature of gardening that makes it so effective. “The breeze blows, things get dew on them, things flower; the sounds, the smells,” she describes.
Lowers Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s
We still don’t understand all the factors that influence the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, researchers in this study found that gardening is the single biggest factor in reducing a person’s risk of dementia.
The study looked at the lifestyle habits of nearly 3000 older adults over the course of 16 years. Those who were daily gardeners had a 36% reduced incidence of dementia.
It’s not certain why this is the case, but it might have to do with the fact that gardening involves so many of different parts of the body and mind: strength and endurance, dexterity, problem-solving, and sensory awareness.
Improves Mental Health and Depression
About 6.7% of the adult population suffers from depression, including seniors. Coping with mental health challenges can be especially difficult for seniors who live alone and have scant contact with friends and family.
While gardening cannot cure a mental health issue, it is proven to help patients feel better. This benefit stems from a combination of physical activity, natural surroundings, mental stimulation, and, of course, the personal satisfaction in growing something beautiful.