Gardening for your health

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Today was the first day of spring and what a day it was! Sunny and double digit temperatures. It’s enough to get you thinking about gardening! If you’re looking for some additional incentives this year to garden this year; we’ve got some latest research to inspire you to get out gardening.

The benefits for exercise for both young and old are well documented. While many of us admit to spending too much time in front of the TV; it’s estimated that most elderly men and women spend 80% of their daily time in sedentary activities. Here is where gardening comes in; it’s a popular leisure time physical activity among elderly individuals.

A study published in HortTechnology confirms that gardening has a multitude of physical and psychological benefits for older women. Elderly women who participated in a 15-session gardening program significantly reduced their waist circumference and improved aerobic endurance, hand dexterity, cognitive function, and the amount of their daily physical activity. In contrast, elderly women in the control group who didn’t garden experienced reductions in physical and psychological health.

Activities for the study were selected to represent low- to moderate-intensity physical activities that would yield similar health improvements or maintenance. We’re not talking heavy digging, lifting or moving.

In addition, the women in the gardening group experienced psychological functions benefits as well. The women that didn’t garden exhibited a “significant increase” in scores for depression, with symptoms progressing from normal before the study period to moderate depression symptoms at the end of the study.  As compared to the gardening groups’ depression scores that didn’t change during the study.

The study does not define what an older or elderly women was, but the study participants came from two senior community centres.

Whether you are young or young at heart, this study shows the benefit to your overall health of getting out into your garden. It may be too early to start planting many annuals, but you can visit your local garden centre to start planning your garden. You can start out with planting cool weather lovers like pansies, violas, and primulas. Some early vegetables can also be planted; for example potato sets. Talk to the staff at your favorite garden centre; they have lots of great ideas.

The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site: