- Gardening, particularly in urban community spaces, contributes significantly to overall health by promoting fresh produce consumption and regular physical activity, as well as reducing stress and anxiety.
- A study carried out by Denver Urban Gardens showed that people with gardening activities are healthier with increased consumption of fibers and engaged in physical activities more often, translating to reduced risks of chronic diseases.
- Community gardening builds good social relationships and trust, and fosters a sense of purpose and belonging which are integral elements to mental health.
- Compared to home gardening, community gardening has shown to have a greater impact on health and the community due to its collective nature. It requires community support, public-private partnerships, proper planning, and willing volunteers for it to flourish.
- The shift in national policy recognizing the health advantages of fresh produce, farmers’ markets, and community gardens could lead to a future where urban gardening becomes more prevalent and accessible.
Gardening is not only a beneficial hobby, but new research indicates that it greatly contributes to overall health improvements. While individuals are taking part in this labor-intensive task, they are not just sowing seeds and watching them grow but are also contributing towards their well-being.
Urban community gardens, in particular, encourage people to consume fresh produce while simultaneously engaging in physical activity. These gardens also have a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety.
The Social and Health Impacts of Gardening
“The efforts that include a strong social organization, access to nature, and the element of active participation are the key factors that yield successful improvements in various health outcomes,” said senior study author Jill Litt, a professor in the department of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
This study was initiated by Denver Urban Gardens with only 40 gardens. Over time, the number has increased to 180. The idea of observing behavior changes in such an engaging environment fascinated Litt.
People became more connected to the landscape, developed social relationships, built trust, and fostered a sense of purpose and belonging, which are crucial aspects for mental health.
The Role of Community Gardens in Enhancing Health
To evaluate the impact of community gardens, a randomized controlled trial was organized, enlisting 291 adults who were not already gardeners. More than one-third of the participants were Hispanic, and over half were from low-income households.
In conclusion, it was found that the gardening group consumed an average of 1.4 grams more fiber each day, which was a 7% increase compared to the control group. High fiber intake is beneficial for preventing chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Moreover, the gardeners also increased their weekly physical activity by about 42 minutes. Physical activity is vital as inactivity is a risk factor for chronic diseases, including cancer.
These urban gardeners also saw reductions in anxiety and stress levels and improved their social connections, further highlighting the mental health benefits of this hobby.
The Unique Advantages of Community Gardening
Compared to home gardening, community gardening, as the study has shown, had more impact. The ability to test a nature-based solution in an urban environment close to the participants’ living or working areas was a unique aspect of this investigation.
For community gardens to flourish, they need community support and must be part of public-private partnerships, structured, and have a strong volunteer base.
The Health Impacts of Gardening
Colleen Spees, an associate professor at Ohio State University, who has also studied the impact of gardening on health, sees value in gardening both for access to healthy food and the experience of being out in nature.
“Removing oneself from the chaos of regular lives brings a calming, quieting effect. The peace that one gets from being free from all the noise of the world significantly reduces anxiety and stress,” Spees states.
According to Spees, gardening and adopting more plant-focused dietary patterns can indeed contribute to positive mental and physical health impacts.
While many people could benefit from gardening or harvesting from a garden, it’s equally important to educate them on how to prepare the produce for consumption.
The Potential Future of Urban Gardening
Spees expressed her joy at seeing national policymakers finally acknowledging the health benefits of produce, farmers’ markets, and community gardens.
“This is the paradigm shift we’ve been waiting for,” she said. “We’re in the midst of it, and hopefully, we’ll see it come into full fruition.”
For more information, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s page on physical activity and cancer.