by Edward Wade: Getting out into the garden can be a hugely rewarding experience…
Unfortunately, however, not all of us have enough time to do it regularly. With such hectic lifestyles, working long hours and the struggles of everyday life, getting into the garden is often difficult. But it is well worth while, there are lots of health benefits to getting outdoors and gardening. It can relieve stress, improve physical fitness, clear our minds and increase flexibility.
The King’s fund health charity have long recognised the benefits of getting into the garden. They look at studies, which have shown gardening can reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer. Not to mention the mental health benefits of being outdoors, including 35% reduced risk of dementia
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, just 30 minutes of digging can burn up to approximately 150 calories. Pushing a lawnmower around can burn 165 and raking a lawn burns off 120 calories. It’s also key to remember you eat what you grow, which means organic fresh vegetables.
To find out more about exactly why gardening is good for us, we asked some professional gardeners and bloggers, to give us their opinion. We wanted to know what health benefits they have felt from gardening and how they felt when gardening.
David is a professional gardener who won the GMGA Blog of the Year 2015.
As soon as I became a self-employed gardener, I immediately loved the sheer physicality of my job. Instead of days spent gazing at a computer screen, I turn the contents of huge compost bins; carry heavy loads; dig holes for tree planting; walk long hours behind a mower or wield a chainsaw, all of which give short shrift to flabby muscles. And lighter, easier jobs too – like weeding, pruning, planting and raking – all keep me active and supple. On five or six days of the year, I trim long, high hedges with heavy petrol hedge-cutters and, by the evening of each day, my biceps have swollen to an alarming degree … as if I’d downed a can of Popeye’s spinach. They may not be a year-long phenomena but it’s good whilst they last and I save a packet on gym fees.
Watching these gardens change day-to-day; by sun, wind, rain or frost is enormously rewarding and fulfilling. I reap a tangible and edible result from my job: planning a border and watching it come into flower; planting a tree and seeing it blossom; or sowing tomato seeds and months later taking home a heavy bag of ripe fruit, all make me happy and pretty content. Personally, I can’t think of a more satisfying job and I often kick myself – quite hard – to remind myself of just how lucky I am.
Georgie is a published author, who has a huge passion for flouristry.
I benefit financially because I don’t need to join a gym, emotionally because the microbes in the soil release endorphins in my brain which make me happy, I don’t sit for hours (very often) at a computer screen, I fall out of bed early in the morning to be out before the sun gets hot and feel as though I’ve stolen a march on the day.
Most of all, and most importantly, I sow a seed in the ground or in a pot and watching that seed unfurl into a seedling, and then become a plant, and then it flowers, and then I save the seed, and the cycle starts again. No matter how awful world events, the unfurling of a sprout from a germinating seed is a declaration of hope and faith in the future.
Sara is a plant made horticulturist, passionate about them all, especially those with multiple uses!
Obvious health benefits from being an allotment holder is the access it gives to great, seasonal produce! There’s nothing tastier than a freshly pulled carrot or sweetcorn cooked at the plot! But there’s also a huge benefit to well-being. Gardening, be it on an allotment or in a garden, keeps you in the moment and concentrating on the task at hand, whilst outside in nature and surrounded by fresh air. A great tonic for those with stressful lives!
In terms of how a person feels whilst gardening, I think being in the outside world, surrounded by nature, calms the spirit and soothes the soul.
Alison loves writing about her garden, visiting gardens or anything garden related!
I find that gardening is great for if I am feeling stressed. A wander around the garden when I get in from work (when it’s light enough), and just pulling up the odd weed or three can make a busy day just disappear. It also means I get to be outside a lot in the fresh air and I get some exercise as well. I also think it keeps my mind working as I am always learning something new.
For me when I’m gardening I really enjoy that I can totally focus on what I am doing and let my mind relax. It always makes me feel relaxed and depending on what I’ve been doing that ‘happy tired’ feeling when I know I’ve had some good exercise for the day.
Alexandra is a professional writer and blogger who loves gardening!
I think that just being outside in the sunshine has huge health benefits. I’ve read that people spend so much time indoors now that some of us actually have mild Vitamin D deficiencies. Gardening definitely sorts that out. I think there’s also a mindfulness aspect. I love to walk round the garden first thing in the morning with a cup of tea, no matter how cold it is. It gives me the opportunity to listen to birdsong.
I’m also very interested in other people’s gardens, so often go garden visiting. That often means a couple of hours of walking, admiring the plants, the views, the design. Possibly the health benefits are somewhat offset by any tea and cake that might also be enjoyed….Gardens also have positive health benefits in terms of bringing people together. I have friends I’ve got to know through gardening. Going to visit a garden makes a good reason to get in touch with someone and spend some time with them.
Harriet is a professional gardener who loves to write about her experiences.
When I’m writing or spending a lot of time teaching online I try to spend a good chunk of the afternoon working in the garden, I find that it really helps my concentration to be sharper when I eventually get back to my desk. Gardening has a meditative quality about it – your mind has to focus on the immediate task, which allows some of the mental knots to untie.
Just add the beauty of plants and the privilege of being so close to nature that a small frog hops onto your hand or a robin perches on the toe of your boot and it’s easy to see that there are many reasons why gardening helps you deal with anxiety and depression too.
Dawn is a published author and an RHS Chelsea medal-winning garden designer
Without doubt gardening – and getting outdoors in general – is my favourite treatment for ‘the blues’. Having suffered from depression as a teenager I can still recall the slight lifting of a weight when I ventured outside. It’s still the case today – nothing lifts my mood as effectively as an hour or two in the garden.
As someone who is passionate about getting kids gardening, it is easy to see how getting out and growing things is the perfect way to improve their attitude to food and diet. If you grow something, you’ll eat it. Lecture kids all you want on the five a day message, but it’s when they’ve grown a crop themselves that they’ll really want to taste it. As a good diet is pretty much a basic requirement to good health, this seems the ideal start for any child.
Helen is an avid garden blogger, who has also worked on an RHS Chelse Garden.
Both allotments and garden are not only for physical fitness but also for mental fitness. When my sister died some years ago my parents found great solace in helping me dig over a new allotment, it allowed them to spend time outside in a new environment with new people, and to in a way escape their grief for an hour or so.
For me my garden allows me to destress after a busy week because as you are working away weeding or sowing seeds you are concentrating on the matter in hand and all the conflicting thoughts and issues that have been buzzing around your head are forgotten.
Sandy writes for the online magazine ‘reckless gardener’ with features on all the RHS shows and garden advice.
I have been a gardener since I was a child and have always found it a restful and fulfilling hobby. When I was younger and in a stressful job, I found gardening a welcome release from everyday pressures. The fresh air and joy of tending and nurturing my plants was very important to me.
As I have got older I have, sadly, suffered from arthritis which has hampered my gardening somewhat. However, there are plenty of ways less able gardeners can still enjoy their gardens and working in them. I learned how to adjust to doing things in a different way and pacing myself. There are also plenty of tools specially adapted for gardeners with disabilities. My garden is now very important to me as I strive to maintain a healthy balance in my life and it is still a great source of joy.
Nick is one of the Two Thirsty Gardeners, dedicated to growing stuff and turning it into booze. Their home grown book, Brew it Yourself, is out now
My day job involves sitting at a computer. Not the healthiest environment. Having to look after a garden forces me outside and away from the computer – even if it’s just for a few minutes a day – which is good for my posture, my eyes and my lungs. On days where I put in a bigger stint, that extended burst of fresh air and activity is even more valuable.
Sometimes the modern world sucks us into a spiral of anxiety, often over things that are trivial. Getting out in the garden is a release from all of that; it’s a return to the simplicity of man-and-nature which, to me, feels a whole lot more like what we were designed for than countless other things that occupy our time
The health benefits are there for all to see. Gardening has an adverse effect on stress and anxiety, whilst keeping you in great physical shape. Although we might not all have time to do it, gardening can be an incredibly rewarding experience with lots of great benefits.