When it comes to hobbies, very few can boast the benefits to overall health that gardening can. From boosting your mood, helping you deal with stress, and giving your body a substantial workout, getting outside and digging around in the dirt plays a key role in the wellness of its participants. Gardeners have consistently shown themselves to be happier and healthier people, so perhaps planting a garden should be your next health goal.
Gardening counts as exercise (really!)
It may surprise you to learn that you can get your recommended 30-45 minutes a day of moderate physical activity by gardening. If you’ve ever maintained one, this might not actually surprise you. Spend an entire day in the garden and see how your legs, shoulders, and back feel the next day!
One recent research study had participants perform various gardening tasks, all while being measured for heart rate, calories burned, and oxygen consumption. The results were very promising.
As Women’s Health reports, “When the researchers measured the results, they found that all of the tasks were considered moderate- to high-intensity physical activity for the volunteers. Some of the activities were more intense than others: Digging was the highest-intensity job. Next up was raking, followed by weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing, harvesting, watering, and mixing growing medium.”
In fact, continuous, moderate-to-strenuous gardening has been shown to burn up to 200 calories every half hour.
Gardening can simulate the effects of antidepressants
Many people take medication for their depression, and some wish they didn’t have to. While it’s not been proven that gardening can replace antidepressants entirely for all people, there is promising research that getting your hands dirty and playing around in the earth can help increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Low serotonin is linked to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Gardening may even benefit those recovering from a substance abuse disorder, since its combination of exercise, outdoor exposure, and hobby cultivation all offer benefits to people in addiction recovery.
According to a study published in Neuroscience, a bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae, found in soil, could help increase serotonin levels.
“Antidepressants work by increasing serotonin levels in particular areas of the brain. One type, known as monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors reduce the brain’s ability to inactivate the free serotonin. Another type, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work by slowing down the reuptake process. The friendly bacteria in this study appear to be having an antidepressant effect in a third way, by increasing the release of serotonin,” explains MedicalNewsToday.com.
Gardening is a highly-effective stress relief tool
The calming effects of both being outside, among nature, and working with our hands are well-documented. Gardening hits both of these. As a stress-reliever, working in a garden has been shown to work wonders, as compared to other forms of relaxation. One recent study pit gardening against reading and found that gardening was the much better stress-reducer.
“While both gardening and reading led to decreases in cortisol, the decreases were more significant in the gardening group. Further, positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading. This suggests that gardening promotes relief from acute stress,” says Mercola.com.
Gardening hits all of the health points – it’s physically demanding, helps to relieve stress, and gives your brain a boost. Being so close to natural life is also a spiritual experience for many. If you’re looking for a healthy hobby to help you improve your overall wellness, it’s really hard to beat gardening.
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