In these trying times, as COVID-19 alters our lives, many of us are finding ourselves with way more time on their hands than usual. Schools are out, businesses are closing and most of the activities that once filled our hours are no longer available. While there aren’t many positives to be found in the current situation one opportunity it does offer is a chance for us to get back to our roots. Pun intended.
It is a long established fact that even in an office environment having plants around us offers many mental and physical benefits. They increase productivity, lower sick time, increase general satisfaction and lower our stress levels. All of that is how they improve our lives sitting in the corner of the room or potted on our desks. But it is nothing compared to the benefits to be gained by digging in and getting your hands soiled playing in the dirt.
Physical Benefits of Gardening
Your gym has locked its doors and your favorite jogging trails are now closed. No worries, most gardening activities qualify as “moderate physical activities” and a few could even be considered strenuous.
Professor and director of the exercise science program at Westfield State University in Massachusetts, Melissa Roti, has stated that “Gardening has all-around physical benefits in terms of cardiovascular, muscle, and bone health.” Tasks as common as raking leaves and using a push mower are excellent cardiovascular activities that also work often ignored muscle groups and help develop overall integrated mobility skills.
According to assistant professor of occupational therapy at Western Michigan University, Amy Wagenfeld, research has also found that heavier exertion activities associated with gardening like that needed to pull stubborn weeds, dig compacted soil and move bags of fertilizer and compost contribute to developing and maintaining bone density in much the same way that weightlifting does.
Gardening and Stress Management
Any form of physical activity will help you manage stress but the mental benefits of gardening go beyond this simple idea. As Professor Roti has also stated “Working and being in green spaces provides cognitive rest that can help reduce feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety.” This is an idea that horticultural therapy expert Barbara Kreski completely agrees with. The former director of horticultural therapy services at the Chicago Botanic Garden has determined that “You can logically say that being outside disrupts that ‘hamster wheel of thoughts’ that we see related to stress.” According to her research within twenty minutes of starting to work in a garden most peoples “physiological markers like sweat, cortisol level, heart rate and blood pressure drop to normal ranges.”
Even though science has a great many tools in its box the effects that nature has on people mentally and physically are not completely understood. Roger Ulrich, then a researcher at Texas A&M University published a research paper sharing his findings that surgery patients with a view of nature recovered faster than those without.
Gardening is a great way to manage your stress levels, remain physically fit and as a bonus is an excellent way to bring fresh vegetables to your table and increase the nutritional value of your meals. So, while you are stocking your quarantine supplies be sure to pick up some seeds and other gardening necessities. It may be one of the best moves you can make to come through all the madness safe, sound and sane.