Gardening can benefit our physical and mental health and wellbeing in many ways. Time spent in a garden has been shown to promote a positive mood and help us forget our worries for a while. It is used to help people recover from mental illness and rehabilitate after a stroke, and as a way for people with heart disease or cancer to improve their fitness and outlook. Just looking at plants and flowers, or having a plant nearby will, within a few minutes, lower blood pressure, muscle tension and heart rate, as well as reducing feelings of stress, pain, fear, anger and anxiety, as demonstrated in some fascinating research studies.
Here are some of the benefits that people get from participating in therapeutic gardening projects:
Physical Health Benefits
- Improved general physical fitness.
- Lowered blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tone.
- An enjoyable way to manage lung conditions.
- Improved weight control through daylight exposure leading to improved vitamin D production and cold exposure which can switch on brown fat cells
- Better bone health and steady or increasing muscle tone from gardening's weight bearing exercise.
- Increased or maintained cardiovascular fitness from moderate to intense physical activity.
- Improvement in joint health and some symptoms of arthritic and other inflammatory conditions.
- Better management of pain.
- More sustainable physical activity - some research suggests we can sustain exercise in green outdoor spaces better than indoor exercise.
- Eating a more varied diet, in particular more fruit and vegetables - some studies show increased consumption of fresh produce where people have been involved in cultivating these crops.
Mental Health Benefits
- Pride in having created a beautiful space, or helped tend a tasty crop or much appreciated flowers. Pride also in learning new skills, perhaps attaining a qualification.
- Relief from persistent worries or troublesome thoughts as the garden takes our attention to things outside ourselves - the weather and climate, the soil and the geology beneath our feet and the wildlife.
- Confidence from mastering new skills.
- Reduced agitation, aggression, confusion and anxiety for people affected by dementia.
- A more optimistic and upbeat mood, partly thanks to vitamin D increases through daylight exposure
- Satisfaction from participating in meaningful activity.
- Social connections and interaction from gardening in a group.
- Stress relief and support to recover from mental ill health.
- A way to slow down and practice patience and mindfulness exercises.
- A quiet place for contemplation.
- An opportunity for creativity.
- A chance to nurture plants and be rewarded by their growth and flourishing.
- A boost to self esteem from the positive way plants respond to a gardener's efforts.
- A stimulating interest - the garden is always changing and offers opportunities to observe wildlife.