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Plant a garden, and watch your physical and mental health grow, researchers say

Photo: Valeriy_G/iStockphoto

Want to eat healthier and get more physical activity? Start gardening, say researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder.

The researchers recruited 291 adults who didn’t garden and assigned them to two groups. One group began tending to a community garden in the spring. The other, a control group, waited a year to begin gardening. Both groups completed periodic surveys on what they ate and their mental health, wore activity monitors, and underwent body measurements.

By the fall, the gardening group was eating about 7% more fiber a day than the control group. The gardeners also increased their physical activity by about 42 minutes a week. Two to three visits to the community garden each week allowed them to meet 28% of the recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity by public health agencies. 

Eating more fiber and getting physical activity are two known ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer and chronic diseases, a CU Boulder press release says.


The gardeners also reported lower levels of stress and anxiety – benefits that may have stemmed, in part, from the social connections that blossomed while tending the community garden with others.

“These findings provide concrete evidence that community gardening could play an important role in preventing cancer, chronic diseases and mental health disorders,” said senior study author Jill Litt, a professor in the CU Boulder Department of Environmental Studies.

The study was published online in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

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