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April Showers Bring May Flowers…And a Healthier You!

Gardening

Gardening is an excellent activity for people of all ages. It gets you outdoors, away from your computer or TV, breathing in the fresh air and building up a nice sweat. Plus, it provides a beautiful and soothing environment, while also giving you a sense of accomplishment as you reap the benefits of your labor.

Here’s why you should plant a garden this summer. Big or small, it can help us maintain our physical and mental health:

  1. Gardening can help alleviate stress: A study published in The Journal of Health Psychology compared reading and gardening as a form of stress relief. The results found that the gardening group not only reported better moods, but they had measurably lower levels of cortisol, “the stress hormone”. 
  2. Gardening is a form of exercise, leading to healthier hearts: A Stockholm study of almost 4,000 people shows “regular gardening or DIY can prolong life by as much as 30% in 60-plus age group”. As we get older, more vigorous exercise can be hard on our bodies.  30 minutes of gardening a day is a great alternative, as it requires movement of both arms and legs.
  3. gardening_handsGardening can improve hand strength and dexterity: With age, both our hand strength and dexterity start to diminish, and the number of activities we can enjoy diminish as well. Gardening gets us exercising our hand muscles, helping to keep them strong and agile. Related research led to it’s incorporation into some rehabilitative programs for stroke patients as a way to rebuild strength and ability. However, it’s important to note that gardening can lead to repetitive stress injuries like tendonitis or carpal tunnel. Be sure to do some simple warm ups to prevent this.
  4. Gardening can lift our moods and help with depression: It’s no surprise that spending time outside makes us happier. The fresh air, the sun…that wonderful scent of blooming flowers and beautiful display of colorful produce. There are some places that are using gardening as “horticulture therapy”. In Canada, this type of therapy has given proven results for patients with depression and other mental illness. “Horticultural therapy as a treatment for many psychological and physical disorders is a valid and increasingly popular intervention,” says Mitchell Hewson, Canada’s first registered horticultural therapist who founded the country’s largest horticultural therapy program at Homewood Health Center, an addiction recovery and mental health treatment facility in Ontario.

Even if you’ve never gardened before, this summer could be a great time to try it! There are endless online resources that can help get you started. Here’s just one of them

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