Dig it!  Gardening offers enjoyment and better brain health

April 16, 2013
Fresh air for brain health

Gardening has long been known as a great way to get outdoors and enjoy fresh air and sunshine. And gardening has hidden benefits that can boost your overall health including better brain health.

Low-impact exercise

Gardeners love to get outdoors and work with their hands. Because of that, gardening keeps people exercising even when a gym may not work. Digging, planting and doing other tasks offers opportunities for low-impact exercise. Gardeners who do more physical work like hauling wheelbarrows of rocks or dirt get quite a workout.

Stress reduction

Gardening also reduces stress. A recent study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities. Participants in the study either read indoors or gardened for 30 minutes. Afterward, members of the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Tracking your accomplishments

Gardeners love to keep records. It would be difficult to remember from year to year what plants did well and those that didn’t thrive in specific locations, under what conditions, especially for a large vegetable, fruit and flower garden.

That’s why gardeners love to keep photos of what they planted, before and after shots, and notes about their garden’s progress..

Those journals, including photojournals, are handy reviews of what to plant again and what to forgo. Notes written by hand or typed on computer will also give another benefit: keeping track of gardening accomplishments helps the gardener remember the details better. Brain health is boosted by sharpening memory and recall skills.

Mood booster

Gardening has proven to be a good way to change one’s mood for the better.

A Norwegian study followed participants with mood disorders who spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables.

After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. Even after they stopped gardening, their good moods continued three months after the gardening experiment was over.

Eat fresh

Growing one’s own food has the obvious benefit of being able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Several studies have shown that people who garden eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than people who don’t have home gardens.

Make room for executive function

Executive function includes such things as planning and being able to thoroughly consider options in front of you. It also includes having a prospective memory. That is defined as having a sharp recall ability to remember to do things or say ‘no’ to other things like becoming sedentary instead of getting exercise. Cognitive performance, memory and willpower go hand in hand.

The great outdoors offers enjoyment, and with the added support of great nutrition and executive function, gardening can also be a key to better brain health.


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