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The habit of taking care of the plants during the gardening and working with the earth is an activity capable of bringing direct and indirect benefits to health as a whole. Not by chance, the practice of therapeutic gardens It is mainly recommended for maintaining mental health. However, there are still few scientific studies that prove these benefits.
researchers from University of Coloradoin the United States, decided to deepen this issue and published a randomized and controlled study, being a reference as a scientific method.
During that study, they evaluated the effects of gardening on health and the results corroborate these benefits: those who participate in collective gardening increase their daily fiber intake and practice of physical activity, in addition to reducing stress and anxiety.
What are the health benefits of gardening?
The research was published in the journal The Healthin the January 2023 edition. According to the authors, some small studies have already indicated that people who work in the garden tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, in addition to having a healthier weight.
But only three were controlled studies, and none were about community gardening. From this new work, scientists believe they have concrete evidence that group practice can help prevent cancer, chronic diseases and mental health disorders.
“The activity of gardening brings a number of benefits to mental health, it helps to develop personal skills, new learning, and improves cognitive development. It rescues people’s autonomy, assists in problem solving and decision making.”
“When you do this in a group, you add the aspect of socialization by being able to do a shared, collective work, and this increases the interaction between people”, he pointed out. Eliseth Leãoresearcher at the Teaching and Research Center of Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein.
The specialist, who is also leader of the e-Nature Research — Interdisciplinary Studies on the Connection with Nature, Health, and Well-Beingcomplements:
“This study is robust and seeks to clearly establish a cause and effect relationship between gardening and a healthier lifestyle, especially linked to food. The greatest importance of this result is to reinforce the possibility of the practice and from this evidence to raise a discussion for the implementation of this for a greater number of people, ”he said.
To arrive at the results, the researchers recruited 291 adults, with an average of 41 years old, who did not work with gardening.
Half of the group received the intervention: a free community garden, some seeds and seedlings, plus an introductory course on gardening. The other half remained in the control group, that is, they did not have contact with the activity.
Both groups provided periodic information about their nutritional intake, mental health and body measurements. After the intervention period, the gardening group was eating an average of 1.4 grams more fiber per day (a 7% increase) compared to the control group.
Fiber consumption has several effects on health: they improve intestinal transit, increase the feeling of satiety, help reduce the absorption of sugars and fats, and act on the immune system.
Including, in the long term, the habit is also beneficial in reducing cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and even bowel cancer. According to the study, an intake of 25 to 38 grams per day of fiber is recommended and both groups consumed less than that.
“It would be important to follow this group for a longer time to see if this amount of ingesta
of fibers is maintained, reduced or increased even more to actually produce health benefits”, says Leão.
More exercise, less stress
In addition to the increased fiber intake, the gardening group also added about 42 minutes of physical activity per week, which is recommended by medical societies to do at least 150 minutes weekly. The authors point out that by visiting the garden two to three times a week, 28% of this recommendation was achieved.
Participants in the gardening group also reported reduced symptoms of anxiety and stress, in addition to having increased social interaction, as they were in contact with other people outdoors.
Furthermore, those who live in big cities, far from possible places where a community garden could be installed, do not need to give up on the process.
Leão points out that the cultivation of some non-conventional edible plants in vases (such as ora-pro-nobis and taioba, for example), in addition to a series of spices and small vegetables, in itself makes people practice gardening, work with the earth and develop this affective relationship with the plants.
“The simple fact of touching the earth while gardening stimulates the immune system also through contact with the series of bacteria that exist in the earth and alters the intestinal microbiota. This also helps to reduce the risk of disease.