Gardening may help reduce cancer risk and boost mental health

Someone planting an outdoor garden in the mountainsPost on Pinterest
New research suggests that gardening offers various health benefits, including a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer. Manu Prats/Stocksy
  • A new study shows that people who work in community gardens receive many health benefits that may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and can improve mental health.
  • A randomized controlled trial enrolled 145 people who had never done gardening before and tracked their physical and mental health during and after the growing season.
  • Participants consumed more fibregot more exercise, felt more connected and less anxious as a result of the community gardening experience.

A recent study suggests that participating in community gardening reduces the risk of serious illnesses, including cancer and mental health disorders.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) have shown that people receive many health-promoting benefits from community gardening.

Gardeners increased their fiber intake by eating more fresh produce, got more exercise in the garden, and felt more socially connected, all of which are protective against cancer, mental health issues, and various chronic diseases.

Previous observational studies have suggested that gardening, in general, may offer some of these benefits, but the CU Boulder study is the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) to look at the benefit of gardening, and community gardening in particular.

The study has been published in The Lancet Planetary Health. The Lancet Planet Health.

The researchers recruited 291 adults who had never done gardening before. The average age of the individuals was 41.5 years, and 34% identified as Hispanic. Of the participants, 18% were male (52 participants), half from low-income families.

The researchers conducted three gardening waves spanning one year each and starting in May, after the last frost, in Denver and Aurora CO, where the gardens are located. Half of the participants in each wave did gardening, and half did not as a control group.

Each participant received an introductory horticulture course from Denver Urban Gardens and was assigned a standard 10-square-meter plot of land for community gardening, as well as seeds and seedlings.

The control group was offered the same as compensation for delaying their gardening during the study.

said lead study author Jill S. Litt, PhD, professor of environmental studies at CU Boulder Medical news today That each participant spent an average of 90 minutes a week gardening and visited his garden at least twice during the week.

“We found that being new to gardening was not a barrier to success in gardening, as our study included only new gardeners,” Dr. Litt He said.

The researchers assessed the health of the participants before the study and group assignment, at harvest time, and the following winter. Subjects completed stress, anxiety, and diet surveys and wore thigh-mounted accelerometers for 7 days at each assessment.

In the study, the researchers found that the gardeners consumed slightly more dietary fiber than the control group, although it was still less than the recommended level of 25-38 grams per day. They also exercised approximately 5 minutes longer at harvest time than the control group.

Rebecca Crane Okada, PhD, RN, advanced oncology nurse and professor of oncology at Saint John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif., who was not involved in the study, said. MNT. “It was a very complex study to carry out.”

Dr. Litt said the study addressed an existing research gap because smaller observational studies suggesting a link to better health cannot determine whether gardening leads to a healthier lifestyle or vice versa.

She noted that the study showed “that a holistic intervention such as community gardening can influence multiple outcomes – fiber and moderate to vigorous physical activity – and psychosocial health – stress and anxiety – in an acceptable and affordable way, for people of different social, economic and demographic backgrounds.”

Dr. Litt noted that gardening addresses several important factors to reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote public health.

According to Dr. Crane-Okada, community gardening provides an opportunity to address known “modifiable risk factors” for diseases such as:

Dennis Dillon, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at James Cook University in Singapore, was not involved in the study but published previous search On the mental health benefits of community gardening.

β€œIn our research, participants who participated in community gardening scored higher on subjective well-being and resilience compared to participants who used gardening alone at home or those who participated in activities outside of group gardening, although similar levels of perceived stress were reported.”

Dennis Dillon, PhD, professor of psychology

Dr. Dillon added that there is “ample evidence from a number of research models to demonstrate the benefits of direct exposure to natural environments for the purpose of restoration, whether physiological or psychological.”

There are thousands of urban community gardens in the United States.

Portland, Oregon, for example, has 4.45 community gardens per 1,000 people, and these parks aren’t limited to temperate regions β€” St. Paul, Minnesota, has the second-highest density of community gardens in the United States, with 3.84 gardens per 1,000 people.

Dr. Crane-Okada credited the benefits of community gardening to being outside in nature and promoting a connection to the earth. She noted that physical activity is required to set up, care for, and harvest a garden and that being part of a community benefits mental health.

Dr. Crane Okada said that people diagnosed with a chronic illness such as cancer can also benefit psychologically from the time they spend working in a community garden.

“The nature of gardening, usually outdoors, involves physical activity, a focus on something outside oneself – and therefore can also be a mindful activity – that can be done in the community, as in this study, and which can serve as an additional social support,” he concluded. .

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