Gardening may reduce risk of chronic illness and improve mental health
A new study in the US shows that gardening can decrease cancer and chronic disease risk while also benefiting mental health by minimizing stress and anxiety.
The study, published in the journal the Lancet Planetary Health, found that people who participate in community gardening programs eat more fiber and get more physical activity than their counterparts who don’t garden.
Both of these factors are associated with better health.
“These findings provide concrete evidence that community gardening could play an important role in preventing cancer, chronic diseases and mental health disorders,” said Jill Litt, a professor of environmental health at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the paper’s senior author, in a news release.
During the study, researchers found, those who gardened ate more fruit and vegetables than their counterparts, increasing their consumption by about 1.13 servings per day. They consumed 1.4 grams more fiber a day than the control group, and increased their fiber intake by 7 percent over the course of the program.
They were slightly more active, too, increasing their moderate to vigorous physical activity during the study period. Gardeners also reported less stress and anxiety than their non-gardening counterparts.
Though the gains were modest, researchers said that they are the types of small changes recommended by experts as a way to prevent the risk of chronic diseases. Smoking, poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle all contribute to that risk.