A new study called Gardens and Health presents evidence for what most gardeners would already tell you—gardening is good for you.
According to UK think-tank The King’s Fund, gardening can be prescribed in place of or alongside more traditional clinical treatments for patients who are diagnosed with dementia, mental health issues, and some cancers.
Being in beautiful outdoor spaces and actively working in a garden can help ease feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. It is also a great way to improve physical health and is low-impact enough that even those who tend to struggle with physical activity can participate. Gardening helps promote good balance and activities, like digging, mowing the lawn and raking, can burn 100-200 calories in a half hour.
These benefits prove that we should really all be improving our health by gardening more, but the study showed that beyond these broad health benefits, gardening can have a very specific impact when it comes to treating dementia. One trial in the study showed that six months of gardening yielded a slow down of cognitive decline over the next 18 months. Even just being near a garden during treatment reduced instances of violent behavior in patients with dementia. Because of the general physical and mental health benefits, the study also suggests prescribing gardening to patients with cancer.
The goal of the study is to promote gardening as a common treatment in the medical field (in many cases, a supplement to more traditional treatments) and to introduce gardening into more discussions on public policy and healthcare. It also advocates for more gardens in general as green spaces have countless positive consequences such as higher levels of community engagement, better cognitive development in children, a sense of identity and belonging, and can help prevent illnesses like cancer and mental health problems.