It’s no secret that gardening is beneficial to your health. As well as being a great source of exercise, the practice is also highly relaxing, exposes you to healthful soil microbes, boosts your vitamin D levels through sun exposure, and even assists with long term focus and concentration.

However, the many benefits of gardening run deeper than this. Think, for example, about the positive effects on food security for your mental health, or the benefits of eating home-grown produce for your health and your body. If you’re curious about what gardening can add to your life, here are 5 unexpected ways in which it can enhance your health and well-being.

#1: Stress Relief

A Dutch study has revealed that gardeners enjoy better moods and notably lower cortisol levels than their peers. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is linked to low immune function, obesity, memory and learning issues, and even heart disease, so you can understand why it is so essential to keep levels of this hormone low.

Interestingly, gardeners also have statistically higher self-esteem scores. Just the physical movement alone can also act as a form of stress relief, boosting your levels of endorphins and keeping your moods more stable.

#2: Heart Health

Gardening is an excellent way to achieve your exercise allotment for the week, and it also provides a rewarding motivation that makes exercising regularly easier. A Stockholm study has shown that regular gardening also cuts your stroke and heart attack risk by up to 30% if you are 60 years old or older.

#3: Brain Health

Researchers have found that daily gardening is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of dementia. Those who garden daily enjoy a 36% theoretical reduced incidence of the disease, although some believe that it may be as high as 47%.

Gardening also strengthens critical functions like endurance, learning, problem-solving, physical strength and sensory awareness, which could assist in warding off Alzheimer’s disease and keeping your brain sharp. Other activities that could improve your brain function range from doing crossword puzzles and mental challenges to choosing to play online Blackjack games!

#4: Immune Function

Gardening is excellent for immune health, which is great news in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic. The vitamin D that you absorb from the sun could help to ward off viruses and other pathogens, and even the dirt under your nails could be beneficial.

Friendly soil bacteria like Mycobacterium Vaccae have been found to improve the symptoms of asthma, allergies, and psoriasis, all of which are considered to have their roots in autoimmune dysfunction.

#5: Mental Health

Gardening could also be very useful for those battling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Its benefits stem from a combination of physical activity, being in natural surroundings, mental stimulation, and the satisfaction of your hard work.

Some biologists also postulate that we are instinctively drawn to connect with nature and other living things, and this ‘biophilia’ could help to explain why nature is such a healing force for our bodies and minds alike. Simply watching something grow from a seedling into a tree or creating a relaxing sanctuary in your garden could be enough to keep the blues away and assist you in maintaining an optimistic outlook on life.