As the season changes, the warmer weather often draws us outdoors. Gardening is a great activity for the elderly in spring and summer. It is fun, purposeful and offers plenty of health benefits. Learn more about the beneficial effects of gardening and how to safely grow your garden.
Gardening Lowers Stress
Studies have shown that gardening can help to lower our body’s cortisol levels, in turn alleviating stress and maybe even reducing high blood pressure. One study that asked participants to take part in a stressful task before asking them to either read or garden for 30 minutes found that both groups showed lower stress levels, but the group that did gardening showed a greater decline in cortisol as compared to the group that did some reading. The gardening group showed positivity in terms of their mood whereas the reading group felt a gradual decline in mood.
Gardening Raises Serotonin
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that improves mood and evokes feelings of peace and calmness. Some studies have also linked gardening to a reduction in depression symptoms. One study found that getting into contact with soil that contains a certain bacteria can trigger the release of serotonin in the brain which works like a natural antidepressant. This may be the reason why horticulture therapy is increasingly popular and has enabled people with depression to achieve positive results.
Gardening Reduces Risk of Stroke and Boosts Heart Health
Gardening is an exercise that is moderately intense. Experts recommend gardening for at least 30 minutes for the elderly to boost heart health and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. In addition, being outdoors to garden also offers plenty of natural vitamin D which is also effective in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Gardening Increases Mobility
Apart from being a great form of physical exercise, gardening can also increase strength and mobility. Gardening keeps used muscles engaged and it is a productive way of rebuilding mobility and strength following a stroke.
Gardening May Improve Brain Health
No one knows the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease or how to prevent it. But, research has shown that positive life choices can actually have an impact on the risk of developing the disease. Gardening is one of the lifestyle choices that may reduce memory-related diseases including Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia by as much as 36%.
Safe Gardening Tips for Elderly
- Use Potted Plants or Raised Beds – These can help prevent straining the back and avoid feelings of dizziness.
- Switch Out Traditional Tools for Lightweight Tools – Gardening tools can feel heavy and take a toll on physical health.
- Use Sunscreen – Avoid gardening during the hottest part of the day. Always wear sunscreen or use an umbrella to avoid getting dehydrated while in the sun.
- Ready Seating – Create a readily accessible seating area to take a rest when gardening. You can avoid becoming dizzy or overheated.
- Secure Garden – For the elderly with dementia, create a secure garden with proper preventative measures put in place.