Five surprising health benefits of gardening

Whether you tend to a small flower patch, or a rolling expanse of lawn, gardening can be good for you. And in more ways than one. Research suggests that getting green-fingered has both physical and cognitive benefits. Want some proof? Here are five ways that keeping your garden looking its best can help you feel at your best too.

Watering plants

Lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s

Keeping active helps decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s. Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that the physical effort of gardening provides a healthy workout for your brain – as well as your body. Tending to your garden helps increase brain volume and boosts the neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that controls memory. By doing so, it can cut the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 50 percent.

Keeps your heart healthy

Gardening may not be a high-intensity cardio workout (depending on how you do it, of course) but it can still benefit your heart. If you think about it, gardening usually involves stretching, pushing, pulling and lifting, all of which get your muscles working and your heart pumping. According to research published in the British Journal of Sports, the combination of physical exercise and stress reduction lowers the blood pressure, cutting the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 30 percent.

Reduces your stress levels

The meditative nature of tending to a garden can help to ease your stress and lighten your mood. Small wonder then that gardening has long been seen as beneficial to your mental health.

By simply spending time in the sunshine, you soak up Vitamin D and boost your levels of serotonin – the body's natural happy hormone. (It’s why we feel happier and have more energy when the weather is nicer.)

It’s also the fact that you get to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday and just... slow down. Spending time in the garden allows for quiet contemplation. You can shift your focus away from your life, which can be a welcome relief if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

Improves your immune system

Dirty hands make you healthier? How can that be? The grime that gets stuck under your fingernails can actually strengthen your immune system. This is due to bacteria found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, which can help you to fight off infection and other sickness bugs. A study carried out by the University of Copenhagen, also found that spending a lot of time in your garden helps to prevent allergies.

Helps you get a better nights’ sleep

Like any physical activity that tires you out, working in the garden will lead to a better nights’ sleep. But it’s not just the physical exertion. Studies have found that gardening helps to reduce agitation. Focusing on something simple and mundane, like pruning a bush, not only quietens the mind, but it also slows down your breathing. This helps you feel much more relaxed come bedtime.

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