According to Statista, approximately 31.9 million households in the United States participated in vegetable gardening in 2019. That is about a quarter of all US households! As it turns out, there are reasons behind the popularity of this activity. Gardening is not only a fun and relaxing way to get in touch with nature, but it can also be good for health, especially for seniors. Learn about some of the surprising benefits of gardening for seniors.
Gardening Makes You Feel Calm
Gardening increases serotonin production. Serotonin is a chemical that regulates your mood. A study linked low serotonin levels to depression. Hence, gardening reduces anxiety and can make you emotionally stable. Research has found that gardening is associated with a reduction in the symptoms of depression. One study has discovered that encountering certain bacteria in the soil stimulates the release of serotonin in the brain. This explains the rise of “horticulture” therapy, which uses plants to improve mental health.
Furthermore, gardening can lower levels of cortisol. While cortisol is important for many body functions, it is also known as the “stress hormone” as it is released when you experience chronic stress, acute stress, or traumatic stress. Lowering levels of cortisol can help reduce anxiety and even lower high blood pressure. In one study, participants who gardened for half an hour after a stressful task exhibited a greater decrease in cortisol compared to participants who read for half an hour.
Outdoor Gardening Gives You Vitamin D
Sunlight is essential for producing vitamin D. Depending on your skin color and how much skin is exposed to sunlight, researchers learned that spending 30 minutes in sunlight can generate approximately 8000 to 50000 international units (IU) of vitamin D in your body. Many bodily functions depend on Vitamin D, including building up your immune system and bone strength. Low vitamin D levels can make you more susceptible to dementia, type II diabetes, and psoriasis flares. While excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause skin cancer, most of us probably do not spend enough time outdoors. A little sunlight can go a long way in protecting us from all sorts of diseases.
Gardening Increases Mobility
Muscle mass and bone density typically decline with age. Older adults need to exercise regularly to utilize their muscles. Regular activity can also ward off heart disease. Some seniors may have limited mobility and are unable to do vigorous activities. In this case, gardening is a healthy alternative for them to stay physically active.
Gardening Encourages Socialization
Gardening in a community garden or school garden can give you opportunities to interact with people of various ages and backgrounds. Making new friends and connecting with others is important for everyone, but socialization for seniors is especially important. Social connection can create a sense of belonging and ward off loneliness.
Gardening Boosts Heart Health
The risk of stroke and other heart diseases goes up dramatically as you age. Though many may not realize it, gardening is a relatively intense physical activity and can improve cardiovascular health. According to a study from Stockholm, regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 30% in adults above 60.
Gardening is one of the best hobbies for seniors to take up. Not only is it fun and socially engaging, but it can also come with many health benefits. What are you waiting for? Pick up the shovel and let’s start digging!