Gardening is easily one of the best and most therapeutic activities anyone can do outdoors. It stimulates the body and soul, maintains flexibility and mobility, provides numerous health benefits, and helps you put fresh, organically grown veggies, fruits and herbs on your table. But, believe it or not, the benefits of gardening don’t even end there.
Some studies show that physical activity and mental health benefits associated with gardening can help maintain cognitive health and reduce the risk of dementia.
In two separate studies that observed people aged 60 to 70 years over 16 years, it was found that those who regularly engaged in gardening had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a number of other health factors have been considered.
What’s more, for people who are already experiencing mental impairment, even just a walk in the garden can be therapeutic. That’s why many residential homes for people with cognitive issues now have gardens on their premises, so that their residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other challenges can engage in this combination of physical and mental activity that can have a positive effect on the mind.
Here’s what makes gardening so incredibly beneficial for our brain health…
A Natural Stress Reliever
Gardening is not only a fun hobby. It’s a very effective way to relieve stress, ease anxiety and prevent depression. The sounds and smells typical for the garden setting reduce stress and therefore prevent cortisol-induced acute and chronic changes in certain brain areas and even long-term damage to cognitive function.
Getting your hands dirty in the garden engages all of your senses and gives constant exercise to your imagination. Sketching your garden layout, determining the types and varieties of plans to work with, making countless decisions while taking care of your plants and your garden space — having a garden forces you to make hundreds of creative choices, which is also a great benefit to your brain health.
The Superpower of Antioxidants
We don’t want to state the obvious too much, but home gardens are filled with fruits and vegetables. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers. What does this mean for you? Well, obviously, you get all the health benefits associated with increased fiber intake (digestive health, lowered cholesterol… the list goes on).
But, as if that’s not enough, the food you grow is also the freshest food you can eat, meaning that it’s the best possible supply of vitamins, minerals and… antioxidants. In case you didn’t get the news yet, antioxidants are known to support brain health and prevent oxidative stress to brain cells.
Recent studies discovered that antioxidants may not only prevent, but sometimes even reverse some of the symptoms of age-related changes in brain function. Some of the top antioxidant foods you can easily grow in your garden include:
- Kidney beans
Say NO to Cognitive Decline
For those of us who want to keep their brain young and healthy and reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, choosing gardening for a hobby seems to be an all-around amazing idea.
Not only is a great way to get regular exercise (which improves blood flow and, in turn, memory), regular gardening also reduces the odds of cognitive decline thanks to the mental stimulation and stress relief that it can provide. Besides, studies show that a diet rich in home-grown veggies and fruits may prevent or even reverse some of the symptoms of brain aging and cognitive decline.
Boost your brain power with gardening!