TUESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Anyone who has ever gardened knows how much love it means to be able to dig deep into the soil, plant the seed, and be proud of your first crop. We know it’s hard work, but new research shows it can also lead to better health.
Community gardens in urban areas can help you eat more fresh food and exercise while reducing stress and anxiety.
“This type of intervention, with strong social organization, access to and contact with nature, and active participation, should be considered for successful interventions to address a range of health outcomes. It’s a necessary element,” said senior study author Jill Litt. She is Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and Senior Scientist at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.
For this study, researchers wanted to conduct a randomized, controlled trial in community gardens to add information from previous gardening studies.
Litt said Denver Urban Gardens asked him to study its benefits when the city had only 40 gardens. Currently, there are 180 people.
“It hooked me. It was the most fascinating system to actually see how behavioral change happens,” says Litt. “People were connected to the landscape. They built social relationships, built trust, and had a sense of purpose and belonging.”
While the previous study was an observational study, Litt recruited 291 adults who were not yet gardeners to study the impact of community gardening in a randomized controlled trial. More than one-third of her participants were Hispanic. More than half live in low-income households.
Approximately half of these adults were asked to wait one year before beginning participation in community gardens (the ‘control’ group). The other half were assigned free plots and given seeds, seedlings, and an introductory course in horticulture through Denver Her Urban. garden program. All were also given an activity monitor.
Each of the study participants was assessed on surveys of nutritional intake, mental health and anthropometric measurements at baseline.
Ultimately, researchers found that gardeners ate an average of 1.4 grams more fiber each day than controls, an increase of 7 percent.
Doctors recommend consuming about 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day, but most people consume much less. According to researchers, dietary fiber affects inflammatory and immune responses that affect metabolism, gut microbiota, and susceptibility to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
“A high-fiber diet based on fruits and vegetables is anti-inflammatory, which is very important for disease progression before it takes hold,” Litt said.
The horticulturists also increased their physical activity by about 42 minutes each week, researchers found.
“Inactivity is a risk factor for chronic diseases, especially cancer, and other chronic diseases, so we want to help people become more active.
The gardeners surveyed also experienced less anxiety and stress, and improved social connectivity.
“What we saw was people building bridges and building relationships with others. It also strengthened,” Litt said.
The research shows that these community gardens have health benefits, she added.
Citing past research, Ritt says the community garden context of the study is important. A home garden is also valuable, but her research shows that her gardening in the community has had a greater impact.
“Another part of what I think is unique about this is the ability to test nature-based solutions close to communities of people,” says Litt. “What we are really looking for is an affordable, scalable and sustainable intervention that can be accessed very close to where people live, possibly work or go to school. It provides a good urban example of what is accessible and available.”
To be successful, a garden must win the buy-in of the community. They must be public-private partnerships, part of the structure, and have a base of volunteers available, Litt said.
The study, partly funded by the American Cancer Society, was published Jan. 4. lancet planet health.
Colleen Spieth, an associate professor at Ohio State University, also studies the effects of gardening on health. Spees’ research is based on gardens in urban communities and typically involves vulnerable populations, such as overweight and obese people and cancer survivors.
Spees sees gardening as rewarding, both for access to healthy food and for the experience of being in nature.
“There seems to be a kind of calming effect when you step away from what I call the chaos of everyday life,” says Spees. “Most people find that when they take a moment to quiet themselves away from the hustle and bustle of the world, from social media, from phones and cell phones, it can reduce anxiety and stress.”
Litt’s study “benefits accumulating knowledge that gardening and increased consumption of predominantly plant-based dietary patterns can absolutely contribute to positive effects on mental and physical health.” ,” said Spees.
While many people enjoy gardening and harvesting from their gardens, Spees suggested that it’s important to include expert nutritional ingredients to educate people on how to prepare food.
Spees is pleased that policymakers at the national level are now recognizing the benefits of produce, farmers markets and community gardens.
“This is a paradigm shift for our country,” she said. I hope it will come true. ”
For more information
The National Cancer Institute has more information on physical activity and cancer.
Source: Jill Litt, PhD, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder, Senior Scientist, Barcelona Institute for Global Health. Colleen Spees, PhD, MEd, RDN, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Nutrition, Ohio State University School of Medicine, Columbus; lancet planet health4 January 2023