Chances are that you don’t have to be told that gardening provides many benefits over and above the production of your own food. But the scientific community is taking it a step further.
Researchers at the University of Alabama set out to find a therapeutic treatment for cancer survivors as they are at increased risk for second malignancies, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and functional decline.
Twelve adult and child cancer survivors were included in the sample. They were paired with Master Gardeners for a one year observational study. The pairs planted 3 gardens. They harvested, rotated, and troubleshot each garden for problems and made the appropriate corrections. The team of scientists collected data on diet, physical activity, and quality of life. Their results were particularly promising:
“The gardening intervention was feasible (robust enrollment; minimal attrition) and well-received by cancer survivors and Master Gardeners. Improvement in 3 of 4 objective measures of strength, agility, and endurance was observed in 90% of survivors, with the following change scores (median [interquartile range]) noted between baseline and 1-year follow-up: hand grip test (+4.8 [3.0, 6.7] kg), 8 foot Get-Up-and-Go (−1.0 [−1.8, −0.2] seconds), 30-second chair stand (+3.0 [−1.0, 5.0] stands), and 6-minute walk (+38 [20, 160] feet). Increases of ≥1 fruit and vegetable serving/ day and ≥30 minutes/week of physical activity were observed in 40% and 60%, respectively.”
Gardening therapy is not only for cancer survivors either. The 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucester, conducted a project to study the effects of gardening as a therapeutic intervention in mental health.
Horticultural therapy is well established in the UK across a variety of health and social care specialisms. The charity Thrive, a small, national organization that promotes horticultural therapy, runs two garden projects – one in Berkshire and the other in London. It also supports over 900 garden projects around the UK.
This particular study secured the services of a voluntary professional gardener and a nurseryman and within a month of the initiative the first seeds were sown. According to the study, the garden has two areas of activity. The vegetable area aims to produce as much food as possible to eat at the unit during various cooking groups, and the flowers and plants area aims to maximize revenue by producing high-quality products to sell. The principle of a workers’ cooperative is not new but organizing the residents of a secure mental health unit into one is. This cooperative enterprise paid the patients a dividend based on the number of hours they logged.
The research has established that gardening has qualities that promote mental health and it is hoped that by operating the scheme in a cooperative model the social benefits found in earlier research will be increased. In addition, the intrinsic hope of gardening is potentially therapeutic to people with enduring mental health problems.
While it seems like common sense to many that growing a garden and eating healthy will provide a benefit to health, the fact that gardening is being used in these studies instead of a myriad of anti-psychotics and statins is heartening to say the least. The implications for an organic therapy verses the pharmaceutical and chemical inputs are quite optimistic.
Source: Real Farmacy