Grab the Rake: Gardening Has Been Shown to Support Healthy Brain Function
With spring just around the corner, it’s not too soon to start preparing a summer garden. Gardening not only produces beautiful flowers, plants and vegetables, the activity may be associated with healthy brain function.
A 2019 Korean study found potential cognitive benefits of gardening with older individuals. Study participants engaged in 20 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity gardening activities, such as cleaning a garden plot, digging, fertilizing, raking, planting/transplanting, and watering.
Before and after these activities, researchers tested the participants for various brain nerve growth factors. The levels were significantly higher after the gardening activity, the study found.
Other studies have found that exposure to gardens support positive cognitive benefits for older individuals, including improved attention.
Among its key benefits, gardening has been shown to decrease feelings of stress. In one study, participants performed a stressful task and then were randomly assigned to 30 minutes of outdoor gardening or indoor reading. Researchers repeatedly measured the participants’ salivary cortisol levels, an indicator of stress, and self-reported mood.
Gardening and reading each led to decreases in cortisol levels following the stressful task, but decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group, the researchers found.
Other experts add that being around plants helps people concentrate better in the home and workplace. Studies show that tasks performed while under the calming influence of nature are performed better and with greater accuracy, yielding a higher quality result.
Another key benefit is that gardening is an excellent form of exercise, which has long been shown to support brain health. Gardening may even promote better sleep, another important factor in supporting health.
Bottom line: Pharmacists should have no qualms recommending their clients head to the nearest gardening center to pick up some tools and packages of seeds.