Have you ever felt the satisfaction of growing your own food? Many have not, but ask anyone who has a vegetable garden, and they will tell you it feels great. You get into the dirt, plant seeds, and watch the fruits of your labor grow.
Undoubtedly, the nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables you can grow are good for your health. But new research suggests the benefits of gardening aren’t just nutritional.
Urban community gardens can help with nutrition, activity, social connection, and even help relieve stress and anxiety.
A recent study in Denver, Colorado, looked to determine how well a community garden could improve participants’ health.
Researchers recruited 291 adults who were not already gardeners and split them into two groups. Half were asked to wait a year before starting to participate in a community garden, while the other half were given a free plot of land, seeds, seedlings, and an introductory course in gardening.
Each of the participants was assessed at baseline with surveys about nutritional intake, mental health, fitness, and body measurements.
The gardening group saw some significant improvements in their health compared to the non-gardening group. They ate more fiber (and other nutrients), got more exercise, and reported less anxiety and stress. They also improved social connections and developed friendships.
It’s important to note that these results explored the benefits of community gardening, not home gardening. And although some benefits will carry over, others will not.
Home gardens have the potential to improve nutrition and increase activity, but they may not have the same impact on stress and anxiety. The act of gardening can indeed be relaxing and meditative, but the group setting allows for greater connection. Human connection, cooperation, and interaction are important for stress, anxiety, and relief.
Joining a community garden, or starting one with neighbors, could help you improve overall health and offer a greater sense of purpose and connection with those around you.