Do you garden for pleasure, beauty, food or just because you love it? Many studies show the benefits of gardening, so either continue doing your favorite activity or it may be time to pick up the hobby.
In fact, horticulture therapy (HT) is a modality that some hospitals use to help patients have fewer complications, recover more quickly and take less pain medication. The American Horticulture Therapy Association states that HT “helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization.” Assisted living and long-term care facilities for the elderly frequently utilize HT as it can decrease agitation, lower need for medications and reduce falls. Additionally, in dementia patients HT can improve cognition because it requires patients to learn new skills or to regain lost skills.
The restorative and healing properties of growing plants, digging in the dirt and relaxing in nature may be motivation enough for you to buy an indoor plant, start a vegetable garden or simply buy a nature calendar for your desk.
Here are the top reasons to get outside and start growing:
- Stress reduction
Research shows that the effects on the mind are similar to meditation; inducing calm and relaxation. Even just gazing at pictures of nature has been shown to decrease stress levels, but why not take full advantage and get some exercise while you are at it.
Gardening can be as labor intensive as you would like it to be. Some may want to embark on a large vegetable garden and others may decide to stick to potted plants. Either way the activity burns more calories than sitting on the couch.
- Vitamin D and Sunlight
Studies show that even people living in areas with plenty of sunlight may suffer from vitamin D deficiency because they work indoors all day. Getting outside after work and on the weekends to care for a garden or plants helps motivate people to spend time in nature.
- Improved Attention & Mood
Most Americans lead a fairly busy lifestyle, spending large amounts of their time in front of computers, televisions and cellphones, which can lead to “attention fatigue.” Colors, motion and the contrast of a garden setting only requires involuntary attention, which can be rejuvenating to an overworked brain.
- Horticulture Therapy. Retrieved March 31, 2013 from www.ahta.org
- Detweiler, M.B, Sharma, T., Detweiler, J.G., Murphy, P.F., Lane, S., Carman, J., Chudhary, A.S., Halling, M.H., Kim, K.Y. (2012). What Is the Evidence to Support the Use of Therapeutic Gardens for the Elderly? Psychiatry Investig, 9:100-110.
- Gardening for Health. Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/gardening-health
- Why Gardening Is Good for your Health. Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/08/why.gardening.good/index.html
- Horticulture Therapy. Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://www.legacyhealth.org/en/health-services-and-information/health-services/for-adults-a-z/horticultural-therapy.aspx
By Amy LaRue, 4th year medical student edited by Dr Elise Schroeder