Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Garden?

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Why do you garden? If you were to send me your responses, I’m sure I would receive as many unique answers to this question, as there are Master Gardeners. However, I thought you might be interested in these research findings on the benefits of gardening. You may already know these benefits to be true, but it is nice to see them documented by research:

Gardening Provides Relief from Acute Stress. Participants were asked to perform a stressful task, and then were asked to either read indoors for 30 minutes or garden outdoors for 30 minutes. Participants who gardened had their positive mood completely restored to what it was prior to performing the stressful task. Moods deteriorated for those that read. Both groups saw a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol, but the reduction was greater for those that gardened.

Van Den Berg and Custers. 2011. Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. J Health Psychol. 16: 3-1.

Gardening Helps Your Family Eat Better. About 75% of adults don’t get their daily recommended requirement of fruits and vegetables. However, adults with a household member who gardens consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 times more per day than those without a gardener in the family. These same adults were 3.5 times more likely to consume fruits and vegetables at least 5 times daily.

Alaimo et al. 2008. Fruit and vegetable intake among urban community gardeners. J Nutr. Educ. Behav. 40: 94-101.

Gardening Promotes Physical Health. Active gardeners (150+ minutes per week spent gardening) burn nearly twice as many calories per week than casual gardeners (120-150 minutes per week) and non-gardeners. They also have better physical function, hand function and life satisfaction. But, active gardeners also have worse back pain, so be careful out there!
Park, Sin-Ae. 2007. Gardening as a Physical Activity for Health in Older Adults. Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreational Resources. Kansas State University.

Gardening and Other Outdoor Activities are Effective Treatments for Childhood Obesity. Children seeking treatment for obesity were assigned to 1 of 4 treatment groups: individual therapy, group therapy, summer camp (outdoor activities, including gardening) and advice in 1 session. All groups decreased their body mass index, relative to those in a control group (no intervention), and the results lasted 6 months after the intervention. If I were a kid, I know that I would enjoy summer camp and gardening a whole lot more than therapy . Take joy in introducing the next generation to gardening!
Braet et al. 2008. Follow-up results of different treatment programs for obese children. Acta Pediatrica 86: 397-402.

Gardening Decreases Risk of Dementia. In a 16 year study that followed 2,800 men and women, all of whom were free of dementia at the start of the study, those who gardened had a 36% reduced risk of developing dementia. In other good news, those who had a single drink on a daily basis reduced their risk of developing dementia by 34%.
Simons et al. 2006. Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo study of the elderly. MJA. 184: 68-70.

So, continue to garden and continue to teach others how to garden. It will benefit our individual, family and community health. Afterall, the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program does subscribe to research-based information. I know that I sure like the results of the Simons et al. study, especially now that I live in a state with amazing wines and beer!