Ask Elaine: Health Benefits of Outdoor Gardening

Dear Elaine,

It’s summertime and the kids are out of school. Time for bicycle riding, softball games, catching fireflies, and other outdoor activities. While I don’t generally participate in that liveliness, I’m wondering if my outdoor gardening has any health benefits.

Thanks and happy gardening.


Dear Diana,

Yes, summer is here and with it a flurry of festivities. Gardening does a body good, so never mind kicking the soccer ball around (unless you really want to). One in three Americans garden. It is one of the most popular of outdoor activities. According to Good Housekeeping’s health editor Caroline Picard, there are several benefits of gardening –

  1. Gardening burns a lot of calories, about 330 calories per hour of light gardening. All that lifting, digging, planting, raking and mowing counts towards a cardiovascular and muscle workout.
  2. Gardening can lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  3. It’s good for your bones. Sunshine prompts your skin to manufacture Vitamin D that helps your body absorb calcium, a mineral essential for bone formation. But please use sunscreen to lower your risk of skin cancer if you are outside more than 15 minutes.
  4. Gardening can relieve stress, and reduce depression, anxiety and dementia (according to a 2017 meta-analysis in Preventive Medicine Reports). Gardening gives people control over a situation when they might feel helpless.  Nature provides a great respite from electronics.
  5. It’s a wonderful source of community. People gardening together – community gardens, Laurelwood Arboretum and other volunteer opportunities (!) – had significantly better self-esteem, total mood disturbance and general health compared to those who did not garden.  Increased social interaction can create a sense of fulfillment and stave off loneliness.  It’s a wonderful way to make new friends of like minds.
  6. Gardening can make you happier and boost your mood. Gardening is a “hopeful” activity and it means that you have faith in the future.

Even Martha Stewart and AARP agree that no matter what your age, interacting with nature will help you to think and feel better. What are you waiting for?

Happy gardening!

Elaine Fogerty, Executive Director

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