How Gardening Boosts Mood and Cures Depression

The health benefits of gardening are wide-ranging, including better nutrition, improved mental health, and exercise. According to a recent BBC article, “Pilot schemes for general practitioners (GPs) to prescribe gardening are underway, while school gardening projects have been set up to give children a peaceful space to relax in.

There are also community garden schemes where patients at GP practices work together to grow food, while studies have shown that exposure to gardens can have a calming effect in dementia.”

A survey conducted by Gardeners’ World magazine in 2013 showed that 80% of gardeners reported feeling satisfied and happy with their life, compared to 67% of non-gardeners.

A Dutch study has also found that gardening is one of the most powerful stress relieving activities there are.  The tests revealed that gardeners had lower levels of the stress hormone compared to non-gardeners.

As reported by CNN Health:

In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood or ‘bipolar II disorder’ spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables.

After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s more, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended …

Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil … increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.

Gardening as Moderate-to-High-Intensity Exercise

Fitness experts have found that exercising outdoors makes you exercise even harder, although the activity itself seems easier compared to indoor exercise.  This could be part of the equation, as gardening encourages you to work out harder than you would in the gym.

According to a Korean study, the gardening tasks like harvesting, weeding, mulching, watering, planting, hoeing, mixing growing medium, and sowing seeds constitute moderate-intensity exercise, based on energy expenditure evaluations in kids.

Just like with any other exercise, the form is critical to avoid injury. Here are a few considerations regarding your posture while gardening:

  • Maintain proper spinal alignment while working
  • Avoid over-reaching by keeping objects close to you
  • Work at waist height with elbows bent and arms at the sides, when possible
  • Bend your knees and squat or kneel when planting or weeding at ground level

According to Nikki Phipps, author of the book, “The Bulb-o-licious Garden,” using a push mower can burn up to 300 calories. Other activities like planting, raking, pruning, digging, and weeding can burn about 200 calories per hour.

Exercise in the garden gives all major muscle groups a good workout including your legs, arms, buttocks, stomach, neck, and back. Whether it comes in the form of digging up soil, setting plants or carrying water, exercise is taking place,” she writes.

A person weighing about 125 pounds burns approximately 240 calories an hour doing activities such as raking the lawn, sacking leaves or grass, and planting seedlings or shrubs … Chores that burn approximately 300 calories per hour include digging or spading dirt and laying sod or crushed rock … chopping wood burns 360.”