Gardening, for many people, is a satisfying hobby that allows them to spend time outside. Caring for and nurturing flowers and plants through every stage of their growth is rewarding, but did you know that gardening goes far behind being just a hobby? In fact, there are many health benefits of gardening for you or the senior in your life.
The Pavilion Senior Living, with senior care communities throughout Tennessee, has gathered information on the benefits of gardening, and with April being National Garden Month, this is the perfect time to get started!
Encourages Exercise, Increases Mobility, and Improves Dexterity
According to CapTel, due “to the wide variety of movements, gardening is a healthy form of both aerobic and strength-building exercise.”
While you may not realize it, gardening requires quite a bit of physical activity. Bending, lifting, and squatting are all a part of the gardening process. Pulling weeds, digging holes, and transplanting plants can work up a sweat. Researchers at the American Society for Horticulture Science believe that “gardening is a great way for older adults to meet the physical activity recommendations set forth by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the ACSM [American College of Sports Medicine].”
In addition, gardening helps increase mobility. Muscles that often go unused in everyday life become engaged during the gardening process. These muscles stay strong and can help a senior keep his or her mobility.
More specifically than overall physical exercise, a common concern with older adults is dexterity and hand strength. Because of the nature of gardening, research has shown that “older adults who are gardeners have better hand strength and pinch force,” states Candace Shoemaker, Kansas State University professor of horticulture.
Promotes Heart Health
In addition to gardening being a moderate form of exercise, those who garden outdoors are exposed to vitamin D, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. A study by Age UK of about 4,000 60-year-olds found that “regular gardening…can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke, and prolong life by as much as 30% among the 60-plus age group.”
Strengthens the Immune System
If your parent or loved one is gardening, he or she is going to get dirty. As they dig through the soil, it is a guarantee that some of the dirt will leave the garden with them. But this can be a good thing! In fact, it may be strengthening his or her immune system. The common “soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae… has been found to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis, allergies, and asthma: all of which may stem from an out-of-whack immune system (eartheasy.com).”
The vitamin D that gardeners are exposed to from spending time in the sun also plays a role in strengthening the immune system by fighting off common colds and cases of flu.
Relieves Stress and Anxiety and Improves Mood
Gardening provides many physical benefits, but what about the mental health benefits of gardening? At any age, relieving stress is something we all strive to do, but as we grow older, this becomes more important as it can lead to high blood pressure and affect glucose levels. A study taken by the Journal of Health Psychology showed that gardening could lower cortisol levels, commonly known as the stress hormone, in the brain. As a result of lower cortisone levels, stress levels deteriorate with it.
Additionally, gardening has been found to increase serotonin, the natural antidepressant levels in the brain. This chemical is responsible for improving mood and promoting feelings of calmness. Mycobacterium vaccae, the bacteria found in soil that alleviates physical ailments such as allergies, has been linked to triggering the release of serotonin in the brain.
The benefits of gardening are too prominent to ignore. Seniors who spend time in the garden not only get their recommended amount of exercise along with other physical benefits, they also keep their minds sharp!
The Pavilion Senior Living wants your parent or loved one to feel the best that he or she can both physically and mentally. Visit our website to find one of our communities in Tennessee that will serve as the home where he or she can do just that!