The results were published in the journal “The Lancet” and show that gardening changed the participants’ lifestyles, including increased physical activity, fiber intake and decreased stress.
Her study was just published in The Lancet. Jill Litt is a doctor of environmental health and a professor at the University of Boulder in Colorado, USA. She has been working on the links between the environment and health for 20 years, and she wanted to tackle the old saying that gardening is good for you, it relaxes you, it’s good for your health and it’s good for your morale. “It’s a principle that’s found all over the world,” she says in the presentation of her study, “but there was nothing scientifically sound on the subject.”
So Jill Litt launched a program in 2018 to measure the physiological and psychological effects of gardening. 291 adult volunteers were recruited in Colorado, average age 41, largely from working-class backgrounds and low-income households, and mostly without gardening experience. The group was divided into two groups, a control group that continued to live their lives unchanged, and a test group, where participants were assigned a small plot in a shared garden. To get started, they were given a bag of seeds, some seedlings and an introductory gardening course. And all were monitored medically, weight, blood pressure, diet.
A noticeable decrease in stress and anxiety in the first few weeks
Result: in only six months, those who gardened increased their weekly physical activity by 42 minutes, i.e. three quarters of an hour more bending down, getting up and carrying soil. They also increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables, and therefore of fiber: 7% more than the group that did not garden, “yet fiber,” recalls Professor Litt, “stimulates the immune response, and we know that eating foods rich in fiber considerably reduces the risk of diabetes and cancer.”
Finally, another finding is that those who have been to the vegetable garden report a noticeable decrease in stress and anxiety, not just in the first few months, but over time. “In summary,” says Jill Litt, “it’s not just about fruits and vegetables, what’s beneficial physically and mentally is being in a natural space, outside and what’s more with other people to exchange, learn and share things.” This is no longer a vague impression, but now the result of a scientific study. So, get your hoes!