Reduce stress, improve health as you age by taking up gardening

Here’s an excellent way to escape the hustle and bustle of your everyday life — pick up a spade and start gardening. It won’t only make your land look great, but according to experts, it may significantly improve your quality of life.

This is what a cross-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of Wales Institute (now the Cardiff Metropolitan University) found out after studying the benefits of growing plants for older adults. The team found out that people who actively practice horticulture (the formal term for the science and art of growing plants, among others) moved better and had fewer cases of pain than those who did not practice it.

Additionally, people aged 50 years and above who practice gardening have reported increased physical activity, satisfaction with life, and well-being, compared with those who do not. This also applies to older adults who are in care institutions as they also reported a significant improvement in their health and well-being.

“These findings represent a step toward understanding the benefits of allotment gardening activity,” explained study author Jemma Hawkins. “Our results are intriguing in terms of health promotion in later life. In addition, further information about the benefits of gardening for healthy aging will be useful to the horticultural industry for promoting gardening activities.”

The study adds more evidence to claims stating that gardening is beneficial to healthy aging. This was conducted using a cross-sectional study that examined the health status and stress levels of older adult allotment gardeners in the United Kingdom against other older adults who indulged in leisurely activities such as indoor exercise and walking.

An allotment garden (called community gardens in the United States) is a piece of land that is leased from a local authority or a private property that is used for growing fruits and vegetables.

Participants in the study were asked to measure their physiological and psychometric levels of health, perceived stress, level of physical activity, and perceived social support. One noticeable difference from the surveys was that allotment gardeners rated themselves to have lower stress levels than older adults who indulged in other activities. Researchers posited this dip in stress level as the psychological effect of being in tune with nature.

Some results were similar when it came to people who were immersed in other activities: almost all report to have the same level of physical health and social action. However, it was noted that allotment gardeners from deprived areas posed the lowest stress levels. This was credited to be a benefit from taking time away from an unfavorable home environment, according to researchers.

Starting your own garden

You don’t need to wait until later to experience the benefits and joys of gardening. It may look challenging at first, but planning what you want to do with your garden can be helpful in caring for it in the long run. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Choose a good site for your garden. An area where there is good exposure to the sun and access to water will be key factors in the success of your garden. The soil is also a consideration. Learning about your garden’s soil can help you determine which plants would be a hit when they’re planted. (Related: Maintain Healthy, Sustainable Garden Soil.)
  • Select plants that you like and can maintain. At the end of the day, the main factor in the success and failure of your garden is you. Choose plants that match your soil’s hardiness zone and type.
  • Design your garden. This is the fun part — your garden can be a reflection of things you like, so plant away!
  • Take care it and keep it alive. Like everything in life, our garden’s upkeep should be our responsibility. Gardens may look difficult to maintain, so many people choose not to do so — only to find out the worst garden to maintain is one that’s already out of control.

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