The health benefits of gardens are abundant and life changing. Having experienced first-hand the benefits of spending time with the land, we at Urban Plantations have known this “fact” with the utmost certainty – but our feelings, persuasion, and knowledge on the topic can only go so far! Excitingly, in recent years the science has begun to catch up and explore theories to support our long-held beliefs, studying what has been lost along our pursuit of urban lifestyles.
Is there, in fact, something to be gained health-wise by reintroducing gardening and green spaces back into our society?
Lives have become busy and include careers, raising families, social obligations, commutes, and many other responsibilities. Achieving these multifaceted days are often dependent upon living in more convenient metropolitan settings. As a result, humans on the whole have become largely urban dwellers, reducing our time in nature. While this progression provides conveniences like easy access to groceries, schools, and career options, it also creates deficits in other areas.
Studies are now beginning to show a vast and diverse number of societal groups have exhibited tremendous improvement, both physically and mentally, from time spent in gardens. Researchers from around the globe, led by the World Health Organization, have conducted extensive research on the topic. Whether performing hands-on cultivation or just enjoying a reprieve from life’s complexities, we’re now seeing proof these activities can result in a positive changes to your well-being.
It is well known that the physical act of gardening can help strengthen bodies. Many people have professions requiring them to be seated at desks, and maintaining a garden can help provide a balance to these sedentary hours. More importantly, it can now be said the health of two groups specifically, children and seniors, is measurably improved by tending green space.
School gardens are literally a breath of fresh air when added to classroom curriculums.
Educating youth in school gardens can provide a tremendous number of benefits. Exposing children to vegetable gardens at a young age may even instill healthier lifestyle choices. Students exhibit an elevated willingness to try new fruits and vegetables after cultivating with their own hands.
This study completed by The University of Texas at Austin suggests regular fruit and vegetable consumption increases amongst children who spend time in edible gardens. In addition, households where any one person is taking part in cultivating produce, the likelihood for all household members to eat more veggies is increased!
Research below suggest senior populations experience a wide range of physical improvement as well. Working in the garden provides these opportunities, as well as a welcome distraction to what would otherwise be labeled “exercise.”
Dementia and stroke patients have experienced an increase in dexterity and mobility through the cultivation of green space. Passive exposure to nearby green spaces can reduce unhealthy cravings. Vitamin D deficiencies are greatly reduced by outdoor activities, specifically cycling and gardening. Perhaps most impressively, activities such as routine gardening have shown to reduce the occurrence of heart attacks in elderly subjects studied over a 12.5 year period of time by a whopping 30%.
Research is now beginning to show that in addition to physical benefits, the mental and emotional well-being of both children in their formative years and senior populations can be positively impacted by gardening.
These days technology is king, and children indulge in countless hours of digital entertainment. Social media and the never-ending online world continue to enthrall today’s youth. Added to time spent in classrooms, doing homework, and hours of television, there is little time left to play outside. The all-too-common result is often the absence of activities needed for healthy cognitive development, socialization, and promotion of imagination.
The University of Washington states improvements have been observed in the aforementioned skills when children are more greatly exposed to nature. Additional benefits include problem-solving abilities, the capability to respond to changing contexts, and participation in group decision-making. The University also concludes children who regularly play outside in green spaces can experience reduced symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.
“After gardening activities,dementia and stroke patients exhibited improved mobility and dexterity, increased confidence, and improved social skills.“
As aging occurs, challenges begin to surface relating to memory, mood, general sense of well-being, and opportunities for social interaction. In the study below, it has been found that taking up a physical hobby like gardening can fight against these issues and prolong their onset.
In group homes, gardening can present the opportunity for socializing and alleviate loneliness and depression. The University of Washington writes that gardening stimulates positive memories and can reduce anxiety often experienced in dementia patients. In addition, physical activities such as gardening can reduce Alzheimer’s by 50% through the increased production of gray matter.
Urban living distracts us from the importance of spending time in green spaces. The health of our bodies and minds can be restored by something as simple as planting a raised bed. Take time to reconnect with nature – there is no time like the present:
Whether it’s the allure of growing your own organic food, the want for a more active lifestyle, or to restore your mind, your garden is waiting!