Master Gardener Q & A - Gardening: The Fountain of Youth?


OGLESBY - Looking for the “Fountain of Youth”? Look no farther than your yard! Studies from around the world support that there are very real health benefits of gardening. 

Gardening can help control depression, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, strokes, colon cancer, ADHD, and premature death. This article will explore the reasons it could be the “Fountain of Youth.”

Reduces Stress: It has been proven that stress is lowered by working in the garden by reducing cortisol levels in the human body. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, controls mood and the “fight or flight” response. Reducing these levels reduces the overall stress your body is feeling (Garden Gate Magazine, March 2020).

Reduces Depression: Soil has a natural antidepressant in the form of a common bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae. This microbe causes cytokine levels in the body to increase, which in turn boosts the production of serotonin, a chemical that helps combat depression (medicalnewstoday.com). Sun exposure also combats depression by giving the body a natural source of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression in humans (healthline.com).

Immune System Support: Recent scientific work has shown that the microorganisms commonly found in soil helps to support our body’s immune system. Exposure to these microorganisms helps to reduce both inflammation and allergies. Gardening, therefore, allows us to get exposure to these helpful microorganisms (thescientist.com).

Protects Against Dementia:  Brain stimulation is another major asset to gardening. Research has indicated that frequent brain stimulating activities can reduce the probably of developing dementia (homecareassistance.com)! Gardening is more than a physical activity; it offers social interactions and cognitive learning.

Exercise Benefits: Studies have found that for a 150- pound person, one hour of hoeing, weeding, and digging burns 324 calories an hour using all major muscle groups. It also has been found it increases balance and muscle strength. Even simple tasks like filling pots and mixing soil improves grip and self-esteem in older gardeners (Centers for Disease Control).

Healthier Diet: Having fresh vegetables in your garden just makes you want to eat more of them! It has also been found that children are more likely to try vegetables they have nurtured from seed then those coming from the store. Multiple studies have shown that children who learn to garden eat more fruits and vegetables (www.rasmussen.edu). Also, by growing your own vegetable garden, you can cut out the pesticides and herbicides commonly used in mass production if you choose.

Fights Heart disease and Stroke risk: Some studies have found that gardening reduces the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. One study of over 4,000 seniors from Sweden who were followed over a 4-year period showed that gardening can reduce heart disease and stroke by over 30 percent. One factor is the moderately-intense exercise achieved during gardening. The other factor in reduction of these diseases is the exposure to Vitamin D you get while gardening. It has been found that individuals with low levels of vitamin D have double the risk of dying of heart disease (www.lifelinescreening.com). Exposure to the sun for just 10 minutes a day two or three times a week will give you enough Vitamin D to help fight off heart disease. 

Gardening is a fantastic hobby and the health benefits are numerous. We encourage you to research more facts as the number of studies on the health benefits of gardening are overwhelming. Just remember, do not take on a large garden to begin your healthy adventure. Start small and build to make your search for the Fountain of Youth enjoyable!

Do you have some questions for us? Remember you can email questions to [email protected] or call the County Extension Office at (815) 224-0889. Please note that due to the COVID-19 epidemic, offices are closed until further notice.

Advertisement