by Mark Underwood
It’s long been known that gardening is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature in a tranquil environment. Just taking a walk in a garden can help improve your mood. This is why gardens are often an integral part of retirement living communities–so older adults can easily interact with the ever-evolving landscape as the seasons change.
Gardens can keep you grounded, quite literally by forcing you to slow down and smell the roses. When you are doing repetitive garden tasks like weeding, digging, pruning, and pushing wheelbarrows around, you also benefit from low impact exercise.
Research has shown that whether you are caring for flower gardens or fruit or vegetable gardens, you may be doing more than keeping your plants healthy and productive. You may be improving your brain health.
It’s been found that gardening has a positive influence on the mind. In studying two gardening groups, the first in their 60s, the second group in their 70s, it was concluded that both groups experienced cognitive benefits from gardening. These studies found that 36 percent of 60-year-olds and 47 percent of 70-year-olds had lower risk for dementia than those who didn’t garden on a regular basis.
Gardening has also been shown to improve your mood and alleviate stress. No matter how big or small your garden may be, the sights, smells, and sounds of being outside simply watching your garden grow, can give you needed relief from stress.
Stress reduction has been studied in the Netherlands by comparing reading indoors with 30 minutes of outdoor gardening. The gardeners reported they felt less stress than the people who took time out to read during the same time frame. The sensory experience of gardening can also help improve depressive symptoms.
Keep in mind that gardening for pleasure is good for downgrading stress, but only if you’re not too invested in the outcome. Gardening is only as stress-free as you make it. If you’re constantly worrying about whether your new plants will thrive or produce the best looking flowers and best produce in the neighborhood, you won’t gain healthy benefits that many people experience when they “play outdoors.”
If you plant a garden, you’ll also likely gain nutritional benefits from the fresh food you’ll glean from your own endeavors. But even if your garden plat is focused on flowers instead of veggies, it’s been shown that people who garden tend to eat healthy.
Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company located in Madison, Wisconsin focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging. Mark has been taped as an expert in the field of neuroscience for The Wall Street Journal Morning Radio, CBS and CNN Radio among others. Mark is also a contributor to the “Brain Health Guide” which highlights the research at Quincy Bioscience and offers practical tips to help keep health brain function in aging. More articles and tips for healthy aging can be found at www.TheGoodNewsAboutAging.com.