Virginia Cooperative Extension agents: Gardening may improve your mental health

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Whether planting a small container garden on a patio or tending a large backyard vegetable plot, gardening offers positive health impacts that can advance the well-being of all Virginians.

Molly Beardslee, an associate extension agent in Page County, and Kimberly Hoffman, an extension agent in Stafford County, recommend gardening as a source of physical exercise and as a way to improve mental health. They are the authors of the new extension publication “Gardening for Health: Benefits for Adults,” available here.

Here are some health benefits from the authors:

  • Pulling, digging, reaching, and twisting as part of gardening is considered light aerobic exercise, which can help improve heart and lung health.
  • Gardening can help lessen anxiety and depressive symptoms, lower your heart rate and cortisol levels (stress hormone), and increase positive emotions.
  • Gardening can help combat loneliness and isolation by creating social connections, which is more important as people age.
  • Research shows that gardening can increase self-satisfaction by giving individuals a sense of purpose, and it can help form better social networks.

Beardslee and Hoffman have seen the positive impacts of gardening firsthand.

“We have a cooperative-style community garden in Page that is a great site for people to interact with one another,” Beardslee said. “Especially in the last few years, it’s been a great spot for senior center groups to come and get outside and get some produce.”

Through their extension office and community garden, Page County also offers Free Market Fridays, where produce is distributed for free at the local farmers market, providing an opportunity for low-income community members to access fresh produce and learn about the community garden.

“Extension meets people where they are,” said Beardslee. “If you’re just starting with gardening, if you’ve got limited mobility or just a patio, extension can provide education on gardening through our publications and the great resource of our extension master gardeners.”

Story by Devon Johnson


AFP

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