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Walking into greenhouse or working a home garden obviously offers the expected reward of colorful flowers and fresh vegetables to cook dinner with, but did you know that planting vegetables and herbs in your surroundings can also enhance your physical and mental health?

While gardening is generally regarded as a leisure activity, according to many studies, it has been shown to provide a long list of surprising benefits to humans and nature that may convince you to take it on as a new hobby.

The concept of “Green Care”, or therapy through exposure to plants and gardening, has been implemented at hospitals, elderly care facilities, and prisons, wrote Richard Thompson, a former president of London’s Royal College of Physicians. 

This can take many forms, but according to a 1990 study conducted at Chiba University in Japan, simply viewing plants is enough to aid in mental health by reducing stress, anger, and sadness, as well as improving a variety of diagnosed mental health disorders like depression. Researchers suggest that this is partially due to the opportunity for social interaction that communal gardening offers, which reduces the negative effects of isolation and stress that patients might otherwise experience and encourages social cohesion and teamwork

The activity of gardening has been proven to increase physical fitness as well. As a more efficient, enjoyable, and sustainable form of exercise, Eijiro Fujii’s Chiba University study showed that regularly gardening reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension, and increases strength and fat loss.

These physical benefits are also partially due to the exposure to sunlight and improved air quality that go along with gardening. Even more surprising, one study reported in the journal Science by Roger Ulrich at a Pennsylvania hospital revealed gardening can reduce postoperative hospitalization time and surgical complications. Gardening is also rewarding because it provides a source of joy to the friends and families of those whose health is improved directly by gardening.

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Indirectly, gardening provides a host of economic benefits as well. With reduced hospitalization times and improved mental health, there are fewer medical bills to pay. 

Learning to garden can also be economically beneficial as it acts as a source of food security and nutritional knowledge, according to a 2022 study funded by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, especially in underdeveloped and low-income countries, where healthy and fresh produce is harder to come by. And in a study by the University of Auckland in New Zealand, frequent gardening activity among young students was positively correlated with healthy eating habits, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, decreased fast food consumption, physical activity, and positive social interactions.

While gardening may be simply enjoyable without these benefits, if you haven’t yet tried to start your own garden or joined a communal one, consider the incredible advantages it offers and see for yourself just how much it might change your health (and your family and friends’ health!) for the better.

Jordana Portman

JORDANA PORTMAN is originally from Boston and received her Bachelor's degree from SUNY Binghamton in 2022. She is currently a masters of professional science student in Marine Biology & Ecology at the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science. She hopes to pursue a career in science communication, through writing or film production, to increase public knowledge of marine science and climate change. 

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JORDANA PORTMAN is originally from Boston and received her Bachelor's degree from SUNY Binghamton in 2022. She is currently a masters of professional science student in Marine Biology & Ecology at...