It’s the beginning of the year and there comes that urge to want to set down new goals. Amongst the countless goals we want to have ticked off our checklist, a new study suggests one more addition that could be game-changing: Gardening!

According to the new research published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, starting gardening can work wondrous benefits for your health. That includes consuming more fiber and getting exercise which in turn could slash your risks of cancer and chronic diseases. In addition, they found that gardening eases stress and anxiety to a great extent. 

Organizations from around the world report that besides smoking, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are also major modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder provide enough evidence that community gardening could help contribute to preventing the onset of chronic disease, cancer, and mental health disorders.

Study Methodology 

Researchers enrolled about 291 participants who were not already gardeners in the study. Participants comprised mostly females and more than a third were Hispanics. In the study, 145 participants were randomly assigned to the community gardening group and the other 146 participants to the control group (the group made to wait a year before gardening).

Those belonging to the gardening group were supplied a standard community garden plot, seeds, and seedlings, including a beginner gardening course tutored by the nonprofit Denver Urban Gardens program and study authors. Meanwhile, those in the control group received theirs the next growing season.

In addition to taking dietary intake, the researchers also took periodic assessments of the mental health of the participants in both groups (i.e. perceived stress and anxiety) and their body weight. They were also given activity monitors to wear for at least ten hours each day throughout the gardening season. 

Results

The results of the survey showed that the pattern of fiber intake increased up to 7 percent upon partaking in community gardening in Denver. Study participants in the gardening group consumed on average, 1.4g more fiber per day than the control group. 

It is worth noting that the daily fiber intake of an average US adult is 16g per day, which is much lower than the standard recommended consumption of 25 to 38 grams per day.

In addition, they also found their stress and anxiety to decrease with an even greater drop among those who initially started the trial with extreme stress or anxiety. The team notes that these reductions in stress and anxiety are important in the prevention of cancer as well as other chronic diseases. 

For physical activity, the researchers found those in the gardening group completed roughly 44.8 minutes more of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week (5.8 minutes per day), than those in the control group. The 2020 WHO guideline recommends 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate workouts to prevent negative health outcomes. And as it stands, only about 28 percent globally meet this recommendation.

“Inactivity is a risk factor for chronic disease, cancer specifically, and other chronic diseases, so we want to try to get people to be more active,” says study lead author Dr. Jill Litt who is also a professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at the university.

Also, the idea of getting to build connections and share beliefs with people in a natural outdoor environment, according to the researchers, adds to the benefits of community gardening.

While home gardening sure does have its rewards, the research has shown community gardening to have more impact.

Eating healthy, working out more often and making new friends have a positive impact on the mind and body. And there’s no better and more fun way to achieve all at once than gardening.

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