7 health benefits of gardening for seniors

By Larry Hodgson, the Laidback Gardener

In these challenging times, perhaps you’re experiencing some stress and anxiety. To feel more relaxed, you could try repotting a plant or doing some weeding. I have a hunch that it will leave you feeling better.

Why you ask? Because gardening is about more than just enhancing our surroundings with beautiful colours (although a bit of beauty never hurt anyone). Taking care of plants and gardening can do wonders for your well-being. Scientific research has shown that simply being in contact with plants can improve your mental and physical health. On top of that, gardening is a great excuse to get some much-needed exercise and therefore can help you maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.

Here are seven health benefits that gardening can have for seniors:

  1. Lower your blood pressure

    Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity every day helps regulate high blood pressure. As luck would have it, experts consider gardening an excellent physical activity. Whether you’re planting, weeding or watering, you’re moving your body! Staying active goes a long way in lowering high blood pressure.

  2. Cultivate a sense of community

    You don’t have to weed alone, nor should you! Studies have shown that people who work together in a community garden have higher self-esteem, fewer mood disturbances and significantly better overall health than people who don’t garden. Plus, gardening is gratifying work that virtually anyone can enjoy.

  3. Strengthen your bones

    When your skin is exposed to the sun, this prompts the body to produce the nutrients you need: Vitamin D. This vitamin—also found in fish and fortified products such as milk—helps your body absorb calcium, a mineral essential for bone-building. In addition, exposure to sunlight can help to counter bone decalcification. Just be sure to wear sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors in the sun for more than a few minutes.

  4. Burn calories

    Here’s some good news for those who already spend hours planting and digging: gardening is considered a moderate-intensity exercise. Yes, you heard it right! You can burn about 330 calories doing one hour of gardening, which is more than walking at a moderate pace for the same amount of time.

    What’s more, several studies have shown that people who garden regularly have a significantly lower BMI (body mass index) than their non-gardening peers.

  5. Eat healthier

    Another positive benefit is that tending to a vegetable garden can help boost your health by supplying you with a better diet of fresh, nutritious and organic vegetables. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that fruits and vegetables should make up half of your plate. This helps ensure that you get the nutrients you need to stay healthy and reduce your risk of chronic disease. However, only 1 in 10 people manage to meet these guidelines, according to Canada’s Food Guide.

    Gardening provides extra assurance that the vegetables and fruits that you grow are fresher, healthier, and better-tasting than the ones from the store, as the food comes straight from your garden. Plus, as a gardener, you can explore new varieties and try vegetables that you would never have thought to buy.

  6. Reduce stress

    Gardening reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, some hospitals even use activities such as planting, propagating and flower arranging to help people recover from injuries, strokes, surgeries and other conditions. Not only does it give people a sense of self-empowerment when they might feel helpless, but it also teaches them to learn a new skill, which can boost their self-esteem.

    However, you don’t need to be a patient to reap the benefits of horticultural therapy. Many people find that gardening (even if this just means watering a potted plant) helps them relax and feel better.

  7. Be happier

    Just the simple act of growing plants can also help to improve your mood. Several studies have shown that gardening correlates with increases in quality of life and fewer mood disorders. Gardening helps to change our outlook because it means having faith in the future. Growing something green and something alive is a hopeful thing to do.

Ready to get into gardening?

If you don’t know where to start, I suggest taking care of a single houseplant or an outdoor planter. Or better yet, join a community garden or set up a vegetable or herb garden on your balcony. The important thing is to take that first step. What could be easier?