The Health Benefits of Gardening

Psst, I know a way to achieve better physical fitness, mental wellness, and nutrition in one hobby. Try your hand, or spade, at gardening. You can equate gardening to Mother Nature’s very own spa retreat. The pastime offers unlimited ways to bend, squat, tug, pull, and dig to get fit while opening the mind and mood to the positive benefits of open air, sunshine, and the good, old fashioned meditative practice of digging in the dirt.

So get ready to get those hands and knees dirty! Let’s all benefit from what we reap and sow in the garden…

1. Better Brain Cultivation

You might grow “brain food” like broccoli and kale in your garden, but it turns out the actually hands-on experience of toiling in a garden is giving your brain an added boost.

A study conducted by the University of South Florida found that students who participated in school gardening programs achieved much higher grades on standardized science tests. Gardening has also been identified as a positive, natural therapy for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD).

2. Weed Out Stress

A study published by the National Institutes of Health, outlines the many therapeutic benefits of gardening, particularly on the elderly population. The study found that even viewing a garden brought about several positive psychological benefits, including reduced stress.

The study found that being in nature and gardening significantly reduced cortisol levels, improved mood, lowered irritability, reduced headaches and pain, decreased the need for medication, and even lowered the overall risk of heart attack for older adults.

3. Deep Rooted Connections

As more and more community gardens spring up in my city (i.e., in townhouse complexes, schools, churches, and parks), I can’t help but notice the social connections that stem from interacting with neighbors and growing and sharing local food among the community.

In addition to the beautification and nutrition benefits, community gardens are making my city a safer place for kids, encouraging more activity outside, and fostering a more socially-engaged and connected community.

4. Nurture Mental Health

Studies from Oxford University firmly conclude: healthy nature—healthy people! The study notes that being in nature and gardening is a affordable and effective way to prevent depression and other mental health disorders.

The study findings also identified nature’s vital role in mental health and well-being. Access to nature has proven effective for helping patients with sleep disorders and dementia in communities with aging patients.

5. Dig The Physical Benefits

There are obviously unlimited physical benefits for those who make time to get outside and be active in nature. However, research from Michigan State University has linked gardening to reducing the risk of several disease, namely coronary disease and colon cancer.

The digging, planting, weeding, shoveling, and watering of gardening provides a total body workout with serious aerobic benefits. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider gardening an ideal moderate to intense physical activity that can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, colon cancer, stroke, and depression, among many others.

6. Grow and Eat What You Grow

If you grow tomatoes, you’re more likely to eat tomatoes…it just makes sense. And research conducted by the Western Growers Foundation (WGF) backs up this claim in “spades”!

The WGF finds that individuals who put effort into growing and harvesting their own produce are way more likely to eat more of those fruits and veggies. Really, gardening promotes better nutrition from peak season produce bursting with nutrients.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.