Playing in dirt isn’t just for kids and animals! A growing body of research has shown that gardening can significantly improve your health and well-being. So what’s the dirt on dirt?
Preventive Medicine Reports published a 2017 study that conducted a meta-analysis on the effects on human health. The researchers concluded that gardens improve physical, psychological, and social health because they’re accessible to all people and can exist anywhere.
Gardening connects us to living things. Regardless of where you live, you probably spend most of your time indoors. But spending time in a flower garden elevates your mood and increases levels of positive energy. Experts suggest that people who spend extended time around plants have better relationships with others.
Gardening is exercise. Raking, hoeing, and harvesting are all forms of physical activity that work muscles and burn calories. Just three hours of light to moderate time in the garden is equal to 60 minutes at the gym.
Gardening feels good and provides great stress relief. Because it’s exercise, gardening releases neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that make us feel good. Gardening also lowers cortisol—a stress hormone. Hacking weeds and chopping vines is also a healthy way to vent and release anger or frustrations.
It’s easy. Anyone can garden, and you don’t need a huge amount of space in which to plant flowers or vegetables. According to the CDC, gardening provides moderate-intensity level exercise which helps ward off type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and depression. Plus, people who garden spend 40 to 50 minutes longer on the activity than those who bike or walk.
Gardening improves mental and brain health. Some residential facilities have planted and cultivated “wander” gardens for their dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. People suffering from cognitive diseases can walk through the gardens whose sights, smells, and sounds reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Dirt is full of beneficial microbes. The act of gardening innately requires exposure to dirt and all of the germs and bacteria that live in it. While this might sound alarming, there are “good” bacteria hiding just under the grass. These beneficial soil microbes, known as Mycobacterium Vaccae, are believed to have an antidepressant effect on the brain and may help boost the immune system.
Gardening encourages healthy eating habits. When you grow your own food, you become more emotionally invested in what you put on your plate. You also have the opportunity to eat fruits and veggies harvested when their nutritional levels are at peak instead of ripening in transit.
About the author: Maria Cannon believes we’re never too young to dedicate ourselves to a hobby. She created HobbyJr to encourage young people to find a hobby they love. Maria has suffered from depression and anxiety for years. Her hobbies–gardening, quilting, sewing, and knitting–play a major role in maintaining her mental health.
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