Gardening is indeed a great recreational activity. Whether your garden is a small patio or a backyard vegetable garden or a small plot in a community garden – the benefits that one derives from it are certainly immeasurable. However, what seems to be the most effective would be the stress relief that one gets from it.
There are multiple health benefits of gardening. The activity is believed to reduce our cortisol levels. Cortisol is popularly referred to as the human time bomb or nature’s built-in alarm system. It is a steroid hormone and is made in the adrenal glands (on top of the kidneys). The secretion of the hormone is controlled by the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands – the combination of which is referred to as the HPA axis.
1. What does cortisol do?
Most of our bodily cells have cortisol receptors. Cortisol is responsible for the flight or fight response in the body. If cortisol levels are high in the body – say for example during stress, the brain accordingly adjusts the amount of hormones it makes. When the stress level comes down, the cortisol levels also come down or vice versa. However, what happens when a person is constantly stressed? They are perennially left with high cortisol levels which could lead to potential dangers like anxiety and depression, headaches, heart-related disease, weight gain, sleep disorders, and problems with digestion.
2. What does gardening do to bring down the cortisol and the resulting stress levels?
According to the American Institute of Stress, gardening tends to be a full-body workout that pretty much ensures every muscle is flexed.
The health benefits of gardening are as follows:
- Upper and lower body strength because of using the lawnmowers and shifting wheelbarrows.
- It prevents arthritis.
- Increase in cardio exercise will bring about a healthy heart
A Dutch study was done on two groups, where both the groups had to go through some kind of stressful activity. This certainly increased their cortisol levels. After the activity, one group was made to stay indoors and was asked to read and the other was asked to do some gardening. The group that did gardening reported elevated moods, and also had lower cortisol levels than the one that remained indoors and stuck to reading a book.
Besides, gardening is known to act on the parasympathetic nerves. These nerves produce a calm and relaxed feeling to the mind and body. The result of this is a balanced state of health. Study has shown that 30 minutes of gardening every day has worked remarkably on the autonomous nervous system, thereby resulting in relaxation response to the body, reduced cortisol levels, and normal blood pressure.
3. What happens when garden?
Gardening brings about focus on an activity, thereby taking our minds off the mundane things that produce stress. As we continue our focus on the gardening activity, the mind shifts to complete attention, slowly dispelling unwanted thoughts and allowing every nerve, every muscle and every inch of our body to relax besides getting exercised. These are the many health benefits of gardening.