Therapeutic Gardening

Senior Couple Working In Garden TogetherGardens can promote exercise.  Apart from the physical benefits, even mild exercise elevates mood. Gardens offer a desired destination that prompts people to walk to and explore once there.  Gardening is a creative way for patients to rebuild weak muscles and ultimately regain independence.

Research shows that gardening for 30-45 minutes most days of the week has significant health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as contributing to healthier bones, muscles and joints. Elements of gardening such as digging, weeding, trimming shrubs and mowing the lawn can require the same energy requirements as other physical exercise activities such as walking, cycling, swimming and aerobics.

Gardens can promote serenity and spiritual wellbeing. For many people, being in nature and interacting with the natural world, brings a sense of peace, tranquility, and feelings of connectedness – with self, others and a higher power.

Gardens can encourage social interaction. Social support enhances immune functions, promotes better moods, and produces better treatment compliance. Gardens can encourage this interaction if they are easily accessible to everyone in the community.

Gardens connect generations.  Through the eyes of your grandchildren, the birds and bugs in the garden become a lesson in biology. If there is not a garden at your current residence, take the opportunity to start one at a friends or family members home.

Gardens enhance a sense of control. We all need to feel that we have choices about what we can do.  There are times when a person has to give up much of that: we give up control over what we wear when we can eat and sleep and our privacy. Gardens offer a break from the outside environment.  Gardens can enhance a sense of control if they offer a variety of spaces to choose from-some private and some open, some sunny, some shady, some with background sounds, some without, and so forth.

Gardens can reduce stress and pain.  Studies show that those who garden on a regular basis show a reduction in stress, depression and anxiety; especially if the garden fosters exercise.  A higher quality of life and reduced pain in individuals was reported, resulting in reduced need for pain relieving and/or mood elevating medications.

Exposure to nature.  Sun exposure is important to Calcium and Vit D3!  At least 15 minutes a day, otherwise a supplement is recommended.  Nature also provides a respite from outside stimulus.  This reduces mental fatigue and refreshes the mind.

Adapted from the book, Healing Gardens, Therapeutic Benefits and Design Recommendations by Clare Cooper Marcus and Marni Barnes.

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