The health benefits of gardening

Mar 26, 2012, 6 a.m.

As you grow older, you may start to look for alternative ways of keeping fit and healthy -- not all of us want to run marathons to keep in shape, and fortunately there are much easier ways to do so. There are many gardening benefits that extend beyond the joy of cultivating beautiful flowers and growing veggies -- healthy gardening really does make a difference for your overall health!

Recent surveys conducted at Texas A&M and Texas State University evaluated both gardeners and non-gardeners ages 65 and above. The surveys evaluated total "life satisfaction" using a series of questions about energy levels, activities, leisure activities, and overall happiness. The gardeners tended to receive much higher scores of the life satisfaction scale than the non-gardeners, revealing that being a gardener appears to be a smart move for nearly any senior.

The gardeners reported higher physical activity levels (the non-gardening survey participants tended to be inactive or even very inactive): Although gardening does not require constant major physical exertion, it does require action. Any action is better than being totally sedentary -- and gardeners tend to have more energy to pursue other types of physical activity as well, so it has residual benefits too.

The gardeners in the survey tended to be in better overall health than the non-gardeners. Over 3/4 of the gardeners in the survey reported their health as "excellent" or "very good" while non-gardeners tended to report health levels that were much more varied. Gardeners may be healthier in part due to the fruit and veggies that they grow themselves: Gardeners in the survey said they ate fruit and veggies much more often than non-gardeners.

The study in Texas has shown compelling evidence that gardening can really contribute to your life in a positive way. Seniors are living longer lives and have more leisure time today, so why not use some of that free time in an activity that is enjoyable as well as beneficial to your health?

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