The Health Benefits Of Gardening
Those with green fingers have long known that gardening is good for you, physically and mentally - and now it has been proven scientifically.
Researchers have found that smelling flowers and pulling up weeds can lower blood pressure, increase brain activity and produce a general upbeat feeling.
The evidence is so compelling that the health factor has been given its own name - horticultural therapy. How exactly can gardening improve your health?
The word 'exercise' can dredge up mental images of treadmills and rowing machines, so it may be surprising to learn that in many cases, gardening is almost as good as going to the gym for breaking a sweat.
Surprisingly, physical tasks such as lifting, can be as effective as going to an exercise class, with 45 minutes of heavy gardening burning off as many calories as a 30 minute aerobics session.
Don't worry, even just half an hour of general gardening, such as digging, mowing or mulching burns between 18-250 calories - plus your muscles will have an all-over workout!
Amazingly, simply looking at the colour green triggers a reaction in the nervous system that eases tension in the blood vessels, therefore lowering blood pressure.
A recent study showed that spending as little as 30 minutes a week in nature was enough to reduce blood pressure - what better way to decompress after a stressful week than pottering around the garden?
Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem in the UK - better known as the 'sunshine vitamin' because of its abundance in sunlight.
This recent vitamin D deficit has been blamed on people living an increasingly sedentary indoor lifestyle, working longer hours in poorly lit offices. It's been linked to heart disease, diabetes and dementia.
So, getting out in the garden will help your body soak up those much needed rays, reducing your chances of vitamin D inadequacy and improving your overall health.
Unsurprisingly, given that gardening is considered a hobby it would be a natural conclusion that it would help to improve your mood. Previously, studies have shown that gardening eases stress and diminishes the symptoms of depression - now time for the scientific part...
Mycobacterium vaccae, a type of bacteria commonly found in soil, has been proven to elevate the levels of serotonin released by the brain, in turn easing depression. Go on, you know what you need to do now!
Unfortunately, dementia is most common amongst people in the 60+ age demographic, but research conducted on people in this age bracket shows that daily gardening reduces the risk of developing dementia by up to 36%!
It has become widely recognised that gardening can lower your stress levels - but, what about designing the layout of your garden to combat anxiety?
Horticultural therapy is a new field of study that focuses on using the act of gardening to dissipate stress while ensuring that the end result also minimises worry simply by viewing it.
A stress reducing garden will incorporate zen principles, including, colours, textures, shapes and scents - it'll be a haven of serenity!
How many of you have heard of healing gardens? It might be a new idea to yourself, but healing gardens have been around for centuries.
It is only in recent years that health facilities have taken notice - many hospitals and rehabilitation centres now offer healing gardens, with programs mainly aimed at stroke and brain injury survivors.
Amazingly, it has been discovered that patients who engage in therapeutic gardening experience improved recovery from their illnesses, with strength, flexibility and memory all enhanced.
Beneficially, evidence has emerged that regular time spent tending your garden reduces the risk of a stroke and heart attack by 27% in people over 60, and can prolong life in the same bracket by up to 30%.
Also, when compared with those who are training for a marathon in the 60+ age group, gardening was found to be just as effective at minimizing the chances of a stroke and heart attack.
So, perhaps rather than reading a book or watching television you should get your hands dirty - the perfect antidote to the chaotic world we live in.