Did you know that spending half an hour to 45 minutes three times a week being physically active in the garden can help reduce the risk of many common illnesses? Or that gardening can half the risk of dementia in older people?
There’s no better way to look after your health than by getting outside and experiencing nature. GroMór 2016, a nationwide campaign to get the country growing in association with Bord Bia, highlights the many health benefits of gardening encouraging everyone to get out, get healthy and get growing.
According to the experts, 45 minutes of gardening burns as many calories as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, and studies have also shown that simply being in the presence of plants can reduce stress and increase wellbeing. Office plants are reported to boost productivity by up to 15 per cent! It’s called the Green Exerciserevolution and it gets you fit-for-life. With easy to follow guides on how to grow flowers, plants, herbs and vegetables, GroMór gives handy tips and ideas to get healthy through growing.
Not simply a pastime, gardening is gaining increasing popularity as a method of handling stress and improving general mental health. Researchers have recently discovered that smelling roses and pulling weeds up can lower blood pressure, increase brain activity and deliver a greater sense of sustained happiness. This research has further helped the aptly titled Horticultural Therapy, which looks to use this natural form of therapy to help people through illness, stress and even aid prisoners in jail.
A recent study also showed that older people could half their risk of dementia by taking up gardening. The study was carried out on patients who were monitored for 30 years and it came to the conclusion that those who increased their physical activity reported a 50% reduction in their risk of developing the disease*.
Gardening can improve strength, endurance and flexibility, and can even reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. Why not use your garden as your own personal gym to tone up and increase your personal fitness!
Eight reasons why gardening is good for you:
- A Healing View
Just looking at nature can be hugely beneficial. Did you know that hospital patients who could view the outdoors through a window recovered from surgery faster than those who did not? Just think of the health benefits of surrounding yourself, and your family, with nature.
- A Cure for the Mind
Research shows that those who engage in gardening activities may demonstrate improved confidence and social skills. Contact with nature has also been shown to markedly reduce stress and improve sleep – reducing the reliance on medication.
- Plant Life
Being exposed to plants decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, decreases resting heart rate and also decreases blood pressure. It’s nature’s “natural” remedy.
- Garden Gym
Studies have found that, exercising in natural environments is connected to greater feelings of revitalisation and positive engagement and increased energy. It has also been found that the mental health boost from outdoor exercise was twice that of indoor exercise. So put away the treadmill and get out into the fresh air! Furthermore, studies measuring the impact of green exercise on self-esteem and mood indicated that large benefits could be achieved with very little time investment – the largest gains were observed within the first five minutes of activity.
- Natural Gifts
Research shows the importance of nature in a child’s healthy development. It has been found that an exposure to nature is especially important for developing the capacities of a child’s creativity, problem solving skills, and emotional and intellectual development. All in all, it is the one great natural school.
- Attention Span
It has also been found that exposure to a green area, (such as a garden), through afterschool and weekend activities is effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children – a huge and growing problem in Ireland.
- Child’s Play
Obesity is on the rise in our country. One way to combat it is to allow children plenty of outdoor play time. This gives children the opportunity to run, jump and climb all of which provide aerobic exercise and strength training. And the good news is that recent research has shown that children who spent more time involved in exercise outdoors decreased their risk for obesity and other weight-related health issues.
- Walk on the Wild Side
A study of participants suffering depression showed marked improvement in mood following a 50-minute nature walk versus a 50-minute walk in an urban setting.
Plus walking in nature as opposed to an urban setting reduced anger and reduced blood pressure. So take time to walk around your garden to reduce stress.
Fergal Doyle, Chairperson of the Retail Excellence Ireland Garden Group, said: “After a long winter people may find themselves unfit and demotivated. With the days getting longer and spring finally here, gardening offers everyone the perfect opportunity to get outside, get fit and healthy with a new exciting challenge. Our website outlines easy tips on how to get started whether you have a windowsill, balcony or a garden!”
Carol Marks of Bord Bia notes that: “Gardening can be easy and fun while being excellent for the body and soul. It’s not hard on the pocket, great for wildlife and the environment and anyone can get involved. Anyone looking for a little extra help can attend any of our 40 demonstrations taking place nationwide over the next few months”.
This year’s GroMór campaign also highlights the benefits of growing plants, flowers and foods, focusing on three other distinct areas:
Interior and Exterior Décor
First time buyers can face a mammoth task of decorating their new homes on a shoestring budget. GroMór gives plenty of tips on how to liven up your living areas with indoor plants and features as well as colourful options to brighten up your balconies and gardens.
Sowing the Seeds of Growing with Your Children
With summer holidays just around the corner gardening is the perfect way to introduce your little ones to nature. Children can learn from a young age how a seed grows into a flower with a little TLC. The GroMór website has lots of ideas on how to get your kids growing this spring / summer.
For those looking for a new challenge that’s easy on the pocket, gardening can present the perfect summertime hobby for complete novices. Plan out your balcony or garden and get growing for a wonderful sense of achievement.
Extra support will be provided for budding gardeners with a series of 40 demonstrations taking place throughout member centres nationwide during the campaign, with 10 demonstrations in four regions involving the expert 2016 GroMór Ambassadors – Jane McCorkell, Fiann O Nuallain, Ciaran Burke and Kevin Dennis.
For a taste of what you can expect in a GroMór Centre near you check out on the newly redesigned website www.gromor.ie.
Twitter @GroMorIreland #GroMor2016
- Mental Health Benefits of Growing
Gardening can give you something to care for. For many people the idea of having an external responsibility gives them a natural outlet to care for something besides themselves allowing them to switch from looking internally to also embracing the outside and nature.
Control & Mindfulness
Many physical and mental health illnesses are caused or aggravated by a feeling of loss of control. Horticultural Therapy can be used as an efficent and succesful way to give people some control back in their lives. In addition, gardening also provides a much needed distraction, which allows people to put their thoughts and diffucties to the back of their minds, while they concentrate on something else, similar to meditation. Gardening can be a great way of bringing mindfulness to your life, with it encouraging people to stay in the present moment while growing and focus on the task at hand, rather than drifting into thoughts of the past or future.
Focus on the World Around Us
By growing and gardening, people are immediately more aligned with nature, which helps to encourage them to see the beauty around them in a clearer light. This sense of something bigger in the natural world, also keeps us connected to living things around us and prevent simply seeing ourselves at the centre of the world. This in turn encourages a healthier mental outlook as we learn to not rely only on ourselves for positivity, but also to see the world and nature as an infinite source also.
Provides a Place of Calm in a Busy World
Having your own green space provides you with an oasis of calm from the outside, stressful world. No matter the size of garden or what you grow, an area that is simply dedicated to growing provides a soothing environment to learn and grow. This takes us away from our busy lives and slows us down, allowing us to get the full benefits of the endorphines dopamine and serotonin, both of which are stress alleviators, when we garden.
* The research was carried out by Dr Cyrus Raji from the University of California, Los Angeles, and the findings were published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study followed the memory ability of 876 patients, with an average age of 78, in the Cardiovascular Health Study covering four sites in the United States.