Apparently, studies on the benefits of gardening are difficult to come by. But if you’ve ever grown food before, you know that the simple joy of eating the spoils of your labor — and realizing it tastes way better than the grocery-store stuff — is one of life’s greatest joys. Now, a study from The University of Colorado Boulder found that there are bona fide health benefits of gardening.
Head researcher Jill Litt, a professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at CU Boulder, followed 300 non-gardening adults with an average age of 41, more than half of which came from low-income households. People from half of the group were given a free community garden plot, seeds and seedlings, and a beginner’s gardening class. The other half (the control group) was told to wait a year before they started gardening. In order to track the study, both groups answered questions about their food intake and mental health. They also wore activity monitors and took occasional body measurements.
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The results were enlightening and certainly showed that gardening has positive effects on humans. Doctors recommend an intake of 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, but most adults consume less than 16 grams. But the gardeners in the study ate 1.4 more grams of fiber per day than those in the control group, which was an increase of about 7%. The gardening group also increased their physical activity by about 42 minutes a week and reported a reduction in levels of anxiety and stress. The community aspect of gardening also had a positive impact on mental health.
In the study, Litt said she “hopes the findings will encourage health professionals, policymakers and land planners to look to community gardens, and other spaces that encourage people to come together in nature, as a vital part of the public health system. The evidence is clear.”
If Bill and Frank from The Last of Us didn’t already encourage you to start a garden this year, this new evidence is certainly an excellent motivator.