Why start gardening in 2023? Here are the scientific reasons!
This article is a translation of the original article written by Lisa Marshall and published on January 5, 2023 in the CU Boulder Today university newspaper.
Exercise more. Eat well. Make new friends.
As we list our resolutions to improve our health in 2023, a new research from the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that one activity could have a powerful impact: gardening.
Funded by theAmerican Cancer Society, the first ever clinical trial on shared gardens reveals that people who start gardeners eat more fiber and get more physical activity – both of which are known to reduce the risk of cancer and chronic disease. New gardeners also experience significant reductions in stress and anxiety levels.
The results were published on January 4 in the Lancet Planetary Health journal.
“These results provide concrete evidence that shared gardening can play an important role in preventing cancer, chronic diseases, and mental health disorders,” says lead author Jill Litt, a professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of of Colorado Boulder.
Filling research gaps
Litt has spent much of his career seeking to identify affordable, scalable, and sustainable ways to reduce the risk of diseases of all kinds, especially among low-income populations.
Gardening seemed like a great place to start.
“Everywhere you go, people say there’s something about gardening that makes them feel better,” testifies Litt, who is also a researcher at Institute for Global Health in Barcelona.
However, she says it’s hard to find solid scientific data on the benefits of gardening. Without evidence, it is difficult to obtain financial support for new programs.
Some small observational studies have shown that people who garden tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and have healthier lives. But is it the healthy people who garden more or is it gardening that has a positive influence on health?
Only three studies have scientifically examined this issue. None of them dealt specifically with shared gardens.
To fill this gap, Litt recruited 291 non-gardening adults, average age 41, from the Denver area (USA, Colorado). Of the participants, more than a third were Hispanic and more than half had low incomes.
In the spring, half of the participants were assigned to the gardening group and the other half to a control group that was asked to wait a year before starting to garden.
The gardening group received a free plot of land, some seeds and seedlings, and an introductory gardening course through thereceiveda free plot of land, some seeds and seedlings, and an introductory gardening class through the nonprofit programDenver Urban Gardens and a study partner.
Both groups completed periodic Both groups completed periodicsurveyson their nutritional intake and mental health, and were also subjected to body measurements and wore devices that measured their physical activity.
In the fall, members of the gardening group consumed, on average, 1.4 grams more fiber per day than the control group, an increase of about 7%.
Fiber has an important effect on our inflammatory and immune systems, influencing theand immune system,influencinghow we metabolize food, the health of our gut microbiome, and our vulnerability to diabeteshowwe metabolize food, the health of our gut microbiome, and our vulnerability to diabetes and certain cancers.
While doctors recommend about 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, the average adult consumes less than 16 grams.
“An increase of one gram of fiber can have significant, positive health effects,” says co-author James Hebert, director of the University of South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Program.cludesco-author James Hebert, director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the University of South Carolina.
The gardening group also increased their level of physical activity by about 42 minutes per week. Public health agencies recommend at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, a recommendation that only a quarter of the U.S. population meets. With only two or three weekly visits to the shared garden, participants achieved 28% of this requirement.
Study participants also experienced a reduction in stress and anxiety, with the most anxious individuals experiencing the most significant reduction in their disorders. significantly.
The studystudyalsoconfirms that evennovice gardeners can achieve measurable health benefits within the first year. As they gain experience and achieve better returns, these benefits increase, according to Litt.
The study’s findings come as no surprise to Linda Appel Lipsius, executive director of Denver Urban Gardens (DUG), a 43-year-old nonprofit that helps 18,000 people grow their own food on shared garden plots each year.
“It’s transformative, if not life-saving, for many people,” says Lipsius.
Many participants live in areas where access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables is extremely limited. Some are low-income immigrants who live in apartments. Having access to a garden plot allows them to grow food from their home country and pass on traditional recipes to their families and neighbors.
The social link is also very important.s important.
“Even if you come to the garden looking to grow your food alone in a quiet place, you start looking at your neighbor’s plot and sharing techniques and recipes, and over time, relationships blossom,” declareLitt, noting that while gardening alone is good for you, gardening with others can have additional benefits. “It’s not just about the fruits and vegetables. It’s also about being in a natural outdoor space with other people.”
Litt hopes that these results will encourage health professionals, policy makers and land use planners to Considershared gardens and other spaces that bring people together in nature as a critical component of the public health system. The evidence is clear, she says.
Researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health, the University of Colorado Cancer Center, Colorado State University and Michigan State University also contributed to the study.