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5 Ways Gardening Supports Your Overall Well-Being

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Evidence shows it’s good for your body and your mind.

woman gardening

Anyone who's ever sat under a tree in their yard or taken in a panoramic view of the ocean knows in their bones that encounters with nature feel good. You see a hummingbird take nectar from a flower and suddenly, you feel at peace. Those gut feelings have scientific support: Regular contact with nature is good for your health. 

Nature doesn't have to be wild or even sprawling in order to work its magic. It can take the form of a few yards of landscape in front of your house, a community gardening plot, or of several artfully arranged containers by a sunny apartment window. All gardeners—whether of the indoor variety or out—have felt that their pastime of choice is good for them. And the good news is, research says they're onto something. Gardening has many health benefits for both body and mind. Here are some of the upsides of tending to plants. 

It Can Reduce Stress 

Feeling overwhelmed? Time to head out to the yard. One study found that, when it comes to reducing stress and increasing positive mood, gardening is better than reading (which is still good for you!). For the study, 30 members of an allotment complex in Amsterdam first participated in a stress test. The test made their cortisol levels (aka the stress hormone) go up and made them report feeling less positive. Following that stressful experience, one group of participants spent time gardening outside in their own allotments, while the other group of participants got to read inside. Both reading and gardening reduced cortisol levels, but participants who gardened had a stronger reduction, and also reported being in a more positive mood.  

It’s Associated with Better Life Satisfaction 

In a survey of 443 people in Texas, a group about evenly split between gardeners and non-gardeners, gardeners reported higher levels of life satisfaction. They reported having more energy, better health, more physical activity, more zest for life, and more optimism than non-gardeners.  

It's a Workout 

Not only can gardening make you feel better about life, but it also gives you the gift of exercise. For a 150-lb. person, gardening activities like clearing land and digging burn 272 calories an hour. Weeding and planting burn 238 calories an hour. And every gardener knows that time in the garden is hardly ever limited to just one hour. Pulling weeds is not as easy as it sounds! The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least two and a half hours of physical activity per week; your gardening session is certainly getting you there! 

It Affects Your BMI

Body mass index (BMI) measures body fat, and certain levels can indicate a risk for obesity. Gardening can impact your BMI as well. One study looked at the BMIs for community gardeners in Salt Lake City, Utah, and compared them to the BMIs of those gardeners' neighbors, siblings, and spouses, and found that the BMIs of the gardeners were lower than their neighbors', who presumably had access to the same food sources and were of similar socioeconomic backgrounds. The gardeners were also less likely to be obese or overweight than their neighbors.  

It Can Help You Feel Better About Yourself

Community gardening in particular has obvious benefits: It's a way for people to grow their own healthy food, locally, when they might not otherwise have access to their own private plot of land. But its benefits extend beyond that. A study of allotment gardeners in the UK found that after time spent gardening, participants showed higher levels of self-esteem, a better mood, and lower levels of depression, anxiety, and anger. It didn't matter whether the gardeners only went to their allotment once during the week or more regularly; the effects were the same. When compared to non-allotment gardeners, allotment gardeners reported better self-esteem, fewer mood disturbances, and more energy, and they weighed less than non-allotment gardeners. All of this goes to show that you truly don’t even need a yard (or a ton of time) to reap gardening’s benefits! 

Get more great health and wellness stories at MarthaStewart.com/Strive.