VCE agents: for personal and community health, start gardening

Extension workers encourage gardening for exercise, stress reduction and mental health.

Whether it’s planting a small vegetable garden on a patio or tending to a large vegetable garden, gardening has positive health effects that can improve the well-being of all Virginians. Through research-based horticultural education, Virginia Cooperative Extension can help make these positive health benefits accessible.

Molly Beardslee, Associate Extension Officer in Page County, and Kimberly Hoffman, Extension Officer in Stafford County, recommend gardening as a source of physical exercise and a way to improve mental health:

  • Pulling, digging, reaching and twisting when gardening is considered light aerobic exercise, which can help improve heart and lung health.
  • Gardening can help reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms, lower your heart rate and cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and increase positive emotions.
  • Gardening can help combat loneliness and isolation by creating social connections, which is more important as people get older.
  • Research shows that gardening can increase self-satisfaction by giving individuals a sense of purpose, and it can help form better social networks.

Beardslee and Hoffman have seen the positive effects of gardening firsthand.

“We have a co-op style community garden in Page which is a great site for people to interact with each other,” Beardslee said. “Especially in recent years, it’s been a great place for senior center groups to come hang out and buy stuff.”

Through its extension office and community garden, Page County also offers Open Market Fridays, where produce is distributed for free at the local farmers’ market, providing low-income community members the opportunity to access fresh produce and learn about the community garden.

“The extension meets people where they are,” Beardslee said. “If you are new to gardening, have limited mobility, or only have a patio, Extension can provide gardening education through our publications and the excellent resource of our Extension Master Gardeners. “

As they grow and strengthen Virginia’s horticultural communities, Virginia Cooperative Extension officers and Master Gardeners Expansion work to connect all Virginians with opportunities to experience the positive effects of gardening. Through research-based community education, local extension offices connect you with the information, encouragement, and community connections needed to grow as a gardener.

Beardslee and Hoffman are the authors of the new publication Extension “Gardening for Health: Benefits for Adults,” Available here.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners work in communities across the Commonwealth to share knowledge and implement horticultural research that advances the well-being of all Virginians. Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to people across the Commonwealth.

To learn more about gardening or join a community group of other passionate gardeners, contact your local Extension Master Gardener unit by searching for your county here Or on Facebook.

Extension workers encourage gardening for exercise, stress reduction and mental health.

–Devon Johnson

Terri S. Tomasini