When my brothers and I were shipped off for summers at my grandfather's house in rural Virginia and sibling frustrations were running high, my grandmother would gather us up, point outside the screen door, and tell us, "Go pull weeds!" It was her proven remedy for many of life's woes. While all of us kids grumbled about it, once we were outside tugging up misplaced plants, smashing dirt clods, and making the garden look nice, we always felt better. Now, a new study proves what gardeners have been trying to tell us all along—gardening is good for your mental and physical health and overall well-being.
The study, published in the journal Cities, indicates that people who garden more frequently may see improvements in well-being, how stressed they feel, and get to see the benefits of increased physical activity. In scientific terms, the new research indicated that people who garden frequently have well-being scores that are 6.6% higher and stress levels 4.2% lower than people who do not garden at all. The researchers saw the most mental and physical benefit in people who gardened at least two to three times a week.
"The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the more frequently you garden—the greater the health benefits," Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) well-being fellow and lead author Dr. Lauriane Chalmin-Pui told Science Focus.
It's easy to see that gardening can distract you from other stressors in your life, which Chalman-Pui explains as nature shifting "our focus away from ourselves," which can help in "reducing negative feelings." Perhaps more surprising is that gardening is also good for physical health. "In fact gardening every day has the same positive impact on well-being than undertaking regular, vigorous exercise like cycling or running," said Chalmin-Pui. Even better, though, "gardening is like effortless exercise because it doesn't feel as strenuous as going to the gym." Effortless exercise sounds like a winning combination for sure. And MindBodyGreen pointed out back in 2019 that a University of Arkansas study showed that "digging in the dirt can even help enhance bone density." Plus, the University of Utah did a study that found that people who participated in community gardening had "substantially lower body mass index" and lower odds of being overweight or obese than the nongardeners."