It’s a given that growing your own organic veggies improves your diet; but access to fresh, unprocessed food right in your backyard isn’t the only reason gardening is good for you. A recently published analysis of scientific studies on how gardening impacts health has some fascinating insights into how digging in the dirt benefits your mind, body, and soul—not just your soil. Check out the benefits you can expect to reap when you sow some seeds. (Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)
Getting out in the garden at the end of a busy day reduces your stress levels and mental fatigue. In one study, participants performed a stressful activity and then were assigned 30 minutes of gardening or 30 minutes of indoor reading afterwards. Both reduced stress, but gardening had a significantly bigger impact. (Try fighting depression by growing a good-mood garden.)
Gardening keeps you active and reduces your stress levels, and that means it can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other associated lifestyle diseases. Plus, eating the nutritious whole foods that you grow is great for heart health, too! (No garden? You can still eat these 13 food that lower blood pressure naturally.)
Mounting evidence shows that a number of health and behavior problems, including anxiety and depression, are directly linked to the amount of time you spend outside. For children, especially, this can constitute a “nature-deficit disorder.” Gardening staves off blues, provides an outlet for creativity, and nurtures a sense of pride and accomplishment when you harvest those juicy red tomatoes. (Here's how to get kids involved in the garden.)
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that various physical activities—gardening among them—can cut your risk of Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. Other research finds that horticulture therapy is very engaging for dementia patients and has a positive impact on their overall wellbeing.
Spending time in the dirt can improve your sleep quality. The physical activity tires you out, but more importantly, tending to your garden reduces stress and anxiety levels, meaning you’ll be able to fall asleep easier and experience sweeter dreams.