A study from the University of Colorado at Boulder (USA) showed that gardening can help you get more exercise and improve mental health.
Funded by the American Cancer Society, this randomized, controlled trial of community gardening found that those who started gardening ate more fiber and were more physically active, two known ways to reduce the risk of cancer and chronic disease. In addition, their stress and anxiety levels decreased significantly.
These findings provide concrete evidence that community gardening can play an important role in preventing cancer, chronic disease and mental disorders, said Jill Lett, a professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of California at Boulder and author of the research. , which was published in the scientific journal The Lancet Planetary Health.
Some small observational studies have revealed that people who garden tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and have a healthier weight. But it’s not clear whether healthy people simply tend to garden or whether gardening affects health.
Also Read: What is CBD and What are Its Advantages?
Only three studies have applied the gold standard of scientific research, the randomized controlled trial, to this hobby. None specifically focused on community gardening.
To fill this gap, Litt recruited 291 non-gardening adults from the Denver area, with an average age of 41. More than a third were Hispanic and more than half came from low-income homes.
After the last spring frost, half of them were assigned to a community gardening group and the other half to a control group that were told to wait a year to start gardening.
The gardening group received a free community garden plot, some seeds and seedlings, and an introductory gardening course through the Denver Urban Gardens nonprofit and studio partner program.
Both groups underwent regular surveys on their nutritional intake and mental health, underwent anthropometric measurements, and wore activity monitors.
In the fall, members of the gardening group ate an average of 1.4 grams more fiber per day than those in the control group, an increase of 7 percent.
The authors note that fiber has a profound effect on immune and inflammatory responses, affecting everything from how you metabolize food to the health of your gut microbiome and susceptibility to diabetes and certain cancers. Although doctors recommend between 25 and 38 grams of fiber per day, the average adult consumes less than 16 grams.
“Increasing just one gram of fiber can have significant positive health effects,” said James Hebert, co-author of the research and director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the University of South Carolina.
The gardening group also increased their physical activity levels by about 42 minutes per week. Public health agencies recommend at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, a recommendation met by only a quarter of the US population. With just two to three weekly visits to the community garden, participants met 28 percent of this requirement.
Study participants also noted their stress and anxiety levels decreased, with those who came into the study the most stressed and anxious had the greatest reduction in mental health problems.
The study also confirmed that even novice gardeners can reap measurable health benefits in their first season. As they gain more experience and enjoy bigger harvests, Litt suspects those benefits will only increase.