There are oodles of benefits — both physical and mental — that come from the range of activities associated with gardening.
See? Oodles. That's real science.
I'm poking a little fun, but the rest of the story discusses the physical and mental benefits of working in the garden. Most of the master gardeners I know, will–without prompting–vouch for gardening's ability to relieve stress.
The most obvious benefit is exercise, said Dr. Julie Roth of the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. And anyone who has planted trees, created a flowerbed from bare lawn or hauled slate to design a walking path will tell you that dominating Mother Nature is hard work.
"It's going to give you a good way to burn calories that's an enjoyable activity for most people," Roth said, adding that studies show that working in your yard or garden can burn between 250 calories and 500 calories an hour, depending on your level of activity.
Diane Relf, a professor emeritus with Virginia Tech's Department of Horticulture, said trimming shrubs or trees requires about the same amount of exertion as walking at a moderate pace. Raking the lawn takes as much energy as a leisurely bike ride or water aerobics. And mowing the lawn with a push mower or tilling a garden can equal the exertion you would expend swimming laps, she said.
"Gardening is moderate — and sometimes strenuous — exercise that incorporates many important elements of accepted exercise regimes, such as stretching and stance, repetition and movement," Relf said. "Some gardening even involves resistance principles similar to weight training."
And while some people just can't bring themselves to climb on a treadmill for an hour, it might help to know that when you "feel the burn" in your garden, you've actually produced something in the end — besides a toned backside.
Beyond physical exertion, gardening also offers a level of serenity that can help a person's mental health, experts said.
"For a lot of people, it's a very soothing activity," Roth said. "You're out in nature, which is a very soothing location. You can turn on whatever music you want. It's a good way to break away from the daily rigor we all go through."
Relf said just spending time in your garden can provide health benefits.
She noted a study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City that found that women recovering from breast-cancer surgery discovered that walks in the garden helped restore their ability to concentrate and reduce their depression.
"After a hard, tense day at the office, a slow cruise around the yard will do wonders to restore your perspective," Relf said. "As you discover seedlings emerging, flower buds opening, even the damage of the tomato hornworm, you forget about the day's worries."
And don't underestimate the stress relief that comes from spending time outdoors after driving your desk in an office all day.
Everyone has different reasons for gardening–some physical and some mental. For me, it makes me feel like I'm giving something "back" to the Earth. My husband likes being able to create something beautiful. Regardless of the individual reasons, all gardeners agree that gardening is very satisfying.