Health Benefits of Gardening for Seniors
When the seasons change to spring and summer, we want to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. One outdoor activity that can do wonders for senior health is gardening.
Whether you’re growing flowers or food, here are some health benefits gardening can have for seniors.
Promotes Physical Activity
Physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain good health as you get older. Fortunately, gardening makes you perform a wide variety of exercises, the most obvious being the aerobic exercise you get from walking around.
You perform strength-based exercises as well. Gardening involves plenty of pushing, pulling, and squatting, working out nearly all of your major muscle groups.
However, discuss your exercise limits with your doctor prior to gardening. If kneeling or bending isn’t for you, try a raised garden. Also, make sure to gently warm your muscles up before tending to your garden.
Provides a Good Source of Vitamin D
The sun is a large source of vitamin D, a vitamin that provides the body with numerous health benefits. Many of these health benefits are of special concern to senior health:
- Stronger bones
- Better immune system function
- Mood regulation (may help ward off depression)
- Improved insulin sensitivity (can help prevent Type 2 Diabetes)
By being out in the sun, the body can synthesize a lot of vitamin D on its own.
However, you must also protect yourself from sunburn and dehydration when outside. Liberally apply sunscreen, protect your face with a wide-brimmed hat, and keep a lot of water and other hydrating fluids handy.
Gardening has been shown in studies to reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Some of this may be due to exercise, but it is also simply relaxing to peacefully tend to the plants you’re raising.
Again, sunlight and movement play a role in improving your mood, but there are other ways that gardening gives you a mood boost.
For one, raising plants can be satisfying. If you’re raising fruit-bearing plants or vegetables, seeing the results of your hard work can really make you feel good. Of course, eating these fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables will make you feel great as well.
If you aren’t growing to produce, the act of raising a plant from seed to fully-grown greenery is gratifying.
Sharpens the Mind
Gardening exercises the mind as well: it requires many cognitive functions such as sensory awareness, coordination, and problem-solving skills to succeed.
In fact, a study found that daily gardening reduced the risk of dementia in seniors by 36%. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16411871)
Provides Social Opportunities
Socializing is important to both your physical and mental health. Making social connections can provide you things to do and keep loneliness (and by extension, depression) at bay.
Gardening is an excellent social activity. You can grow a garden with a friend or group of friends, or you can join a community garden and meet even more people. The garden itself will become a social space for connecting with others as you bond over a common hobby.