Sept 2018: 5 ways gardening improves physical and mental health

Health

Keen gardeners across the country swear by the positive effects of sowing, planting and weeding. At Baycroft we recognise those benefits too. Here’s why all our homes offer a wide range of gardening activities:

 

  1. Keeps you fit

Getting older can make it harder to stay active. Jogging, exercise classes or sports may no longer be an option.

But there are still lots of ways of staying fit and healthy. For example, take a look at 10 simple exercises you can do from your chair.

Gardening is another good option. Three or four hours of pottering in the garden can burn as many calories as an hour spent in the gym – with the immediate visual satisfaction of the difference between before and after.

Gardening is recognised by the Centers for Disease Control as ‘moderate cardiovascular exercise’. And that’s something we could all use help with – cardiovascular disease causes more than 26% of all deaths in the UK.

 

  1. Reduces stress

In the past year, 74% of people in the UK have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.

But various studies have shown that gardening can help combat stress levels and reduce anxiety.

There are a few different theories as to why this happens. Some put it down to the mental benefits of physical exercise. One study even suggests that a bacteria present in soil – mycobacterium vaccae – produces serotonin, a hormone with anti-depressant properties.

But whatever the cause, the studies agree that gardening can help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety with no reported negative effects.

 

  1. Improves mobility

Gardening can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

For some, it’s about maintenance: trimming, tidying, weeding, and watering. For others, it’s the pleasure in growing your own vegetables or bringing through flowers from seed to bloom.

But one of the added bonuses of gardening is the way it encourages greater mobility and flexibility. Regardless of a person’s abilities or limitations, there are always tasks to be done in the garden, all of which help people to stay active and get their muscles moving at whatever pace suits them best.

 

  1. Increases mindfulness

There’s been lots of discussion in recent years about the importance of mindfulness – the mental state where you focus on the present moment. The NHS encourages greater mindfulness as a way of improving mental wellbeing.

Gardening is one approach to aiding mindfulness. Some have described the ‘flow’ state that gardening can bring, or the way you can disappear into the task at hand.

It’s true that gardening offers many varied pleasures – the simple joy of seeing the sun glisten on the herbaceous borders, or the spring of soft grass under your feet. All of which constitute better mindfulness.

“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us,” says Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. “It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’.

“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment.”

 

  1. Aids sociability

For care home residents, gardening can be a great way to get out and enjoy some fresh air and the company of others.

At Baycroft’s homes, we have beautifully landscaped gardens and plenty of equipment for those with green fingers. Or for those who prefer to just relax and enjoy the surroundings, we have comfortable seating areas for that too.

Gardening is good exercise, makes the surroundings look beautiful, helps you feel better physically and mentally… the only thing stopping you is the weather.