Gardening: Can you Dig your way to a Healthier Heart?

Growing fruits, vegetables and other plants is both relaxing and rewarding. Gardening is a heart-healthy activity that can help your body, mind and stomach. Here's why you should give it a go. 

Gardening is a popular pastime in the UK and increasing numbers of people are taking up the hobby to relax, improve health and grow their own food. It could be especially useful for heart health thanks to its stress-relieving properties and gentle exercise.

Outdoor activities are becoming an increasingly popular hobby for treating mental health problems, with many hospitals and mental health services offering gardening as a form of treatment to their patients. One survey found that 80% of people reported better mental health after taking up gardening. 93% of these participants also stated that their motivation and confidence had improved1. By reducing stress and improving our mood, gardening can improve our physical health.

People of all ages and abilities can get involved in the garden. Unlike some other heart-healthy activities, like exercise, there are relatively few expenses and practically no risks involved. You can fit gardening around your lifestyle and schedule, tending to your patch as frequently as needed.

Everyone can benefit from taking up gardening as a hobby, but it can be especially useful for people over 65. A study found that over 65s that spent at least 3 hours a week gardening, walking or fishing cut their risk of heart attack by over 50%2. The number of heart attacks and strokes among participants also decreased by 31%2.

Why might this be? Gardening combines a wide range of activities and movements that work all of your body's muscle groups. Bending down to pot a plant or reaching high to cut a hedge will improve your flexibility and engage your muscles. You're also getting heart-healthy aerobic exercise and stimulating your brain by solving problems and planning ahead. All of these can help your heart to function correctly.

Some of us aren't lucky enough to own a garden, especially in more urban areas around the UK. But there are several ways to get your hands dirty. You could help out at a community farming project or investigate renting or purchasing an allotment plot. You can also garden from the comfort of your own home by growing in a window planter or tending to indoor house plants. Or help your neighbour keep their garden looking green!