Gardening is one of the healthiest outdoor activities you can do this spring and summer. It offers plenty of fresh air, sunshine (hello, vitamin D!), and moderate exercise—and, best of all, you end up with a tableful of fresh vegetables and herbs. Those with green fingers have long known that gardening is good for you, physically and mentally.
Gardening Lowers Blood Pressure.
Researchers have found that smelling roses and pulling up weeds can lower blood pressure, increase brain activity and produce a generally upbeat feeling. Gardening literally lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels!
Gardening provides a sense of Control and Psychological Well-Being.
Gardening can provide a sense of control - the psychological counter to stress and anxiety. Simply by taking you mind off your problems can already alleviate pain and depression. For patients who find themselves restricted by a disability, even the simplest gardening experience - such as growing a potted plant from a cutting – can give a satisfying feeling of control and accomplishment. The growing field of “horticultural therapy” is giving proven results for patients with depression and other mental illnesses. The benefits appear to spring from a combination of physical activity, awareness of natural surroundings, cognitive stimulation and the satisfaction of the work.
Heart health and reduced stroke risk
Regular gardening cuts stroke and heart attack risk by up to 30% for those over 60. Make sure to expose your limbs (without sunscreen) for just 10 minutes during midday gardening: this will give you enough vitamin D to reduce risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and various cancers. Those with the lowest Vitamin D levels may be doubling their risk of dying of heart disease and other causes: and in most cases, too much time spent indoors is to blame. Try for 30 minutes of gardening a day: if your schedule won’t let you fit in half an hour at a stretch, try a quick 15 minutes in the morning, and another 15 after work. The evidence is clear: too much sitting is dangerous for your health, so break it up as much as you can with little spurts of activity.
Brain health and Alzheimer’s risk
Researchers found daily gardening to represent the single biggest risk reduction for dementia, reducing incidence by 36%. Another study estimated the risk reduction at 47%! Why does gardening make such a difference? Alzheimer’s is a mysterious disease, and the factors influencing its incidence and progression remain poorly understood. However gardening involves so many of our critical functions, including strength, endurance, dexterity, learning, problem solving, and sensory awareness, that its benefits are likely to represent a synthesis of various aspects.
Hand strength and dexterity
Gardening keeps those hand muscles vigorous and agile without oft-forgotten exercises such as a physiotherapist might prescribe. Practice hand-healthy gardening by using a few simple warm-ups, positioning your body comfortably and ergonomically, and changing tasks frequently before strain becomes evident. Alternate use of your right and left hands to balance your body — using your non-dominant hand is one of many exercises to keep your brain functioning well as you age.
Not only does the Vitamin D you’re soaking in from the summer sun help you fight off colds, but it turns out even the dirt under your fingernails may be working in your favor! The “friendly” soil bacteria Mycobacterium Vaccae — common in garden dirt and absorbed by inhalation or ingestion on vegetables — has been found to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis, allergies and asthma: all of which may stem from an out-of-whack immune system. This particular organism has also been shown to alleviate depression, so go ahead and get your hands dirty. Researchers are still speculating how our immune system may interact with our brains and play into a variety of mental health issues in addition to our ability to fend off infection: inflammation may provide the key link.
Use a soft wood timber, such as pine, to make your kindling, as the resinous character makes it much easier for lighting fires. Kindling runs out relatively quickly, so it’s always best to prepare a large bucketful all at once rather than make only enough for a single fire