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The fantastic health benefits of gardening

Gardening has many health and therapeutic benefits and can be most enjoyable for people of all ages. With some planning, a little thought and creativity, you can grow an interesting, productive and pleasant space whilst also experiencing a multitude of health benefits that come from doing what you love.

Highly respected GP practice, Absolute Medical Services (AMS) is delighted to be a major sponsor of the Plant Lovers Fair 2017. Practice Principal of AMS, Dr John Schulze and his experienced and caring team have been meeting the healthcare needs of families and individuals on the NSW Central Coast for over 15 years offering high quality, comprehensive medical service.

Dr John Schulze explains below how beneficial gardening can be for your health and wellbeing.


Studies have demonstrated that individuals who engage in gardening report more positive moods than non- gardeners, they also experience measurably lower cortisol levels. Cortisol, “the stress hormone”, may influence more than just mood: chronically elevated cortisol levels have been linked to everything from immune dysfunction, obesity, memory problems and heart disease.

Healthy heart

The evidence is clear, too much sitting is dangerous for your health. Gardening may be just one way to achieve your target 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Make sure to expose your limbs (without sunscreen) for no more than 10 minutes during midday gardening: this will give you enough vitamin D to reduce risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and various cancers.

Those with the lowest Vitamin D levels may be doubling their risk of dying of heart disease and other causes and in most cases, too much time spent indoors is a key culprit.

Improving mental health

Gardening can give you a natural lift and is showing positive results for patients with depression and other mental illnesses. This natural ‘gardening high’ comes from a combination of physical activity, awareness of natural surroundings, cognitive stimulation and satisfaction for the work.

But be aware of your limits and drink plenty of water.

Hand strength and dexterity

As we age, diminishing dexterity and strength in the hands can gradually narrow the range of activities that are possible or enjoyable. Gardening can keep hand muscles moving and agile.

However, don’t push your hands too far: gardening can also set the stage for repetitive stress injuries, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel. Practice hand-healthy gardening by using a few simple warm-ups, positioning your body comfortably and ergonomically, and changing tasks frequently before strain becomes evident. Alternate use of your right and left hands to balance your body — using your non-dominant hand is one of many exercises to keep your brain functioning well as you age.

Lessening risk of Alzheimer’s

Researchers found daily gardening to represent risk reduction for dementia. Why does gardening make such a difference? Alzheimer’s is a mysterious disease, and the factors influencing its incidence and progression remain poorly understood. Gardening involves so many of our critical functions, including strength, endurance, dexterity, learning, problem solving, and sensory awareness, that its benefits are likely to represent a synthesis of various aspects.

Immune optimisation

Not only does the Vitamin D you’re soaking up in the garden help you fight off colds and flus, but it turns out even the dirt under your fingernails may be working in your favour! The “friendly” soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, common in garden dirt and absorbed by inhalation or ingestion on vegetables, has been found to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis, allergies and asthma: all of which may stem from an inactive immune system. This organism has also been shown to alleviate depression, so go ahead and get your hands dirty.

Quick tips for a safe and healthy gardening experience when gardening outdoors:

  • Wear sunscreen and protective clothing including a hat, correct footwear and gloves.

  • Warm up, bend and stretch before you start.

  • Take regular breaks and don’t forget to stretch and change position often.

  • Bend at the knees and don’t strain when lifting heavy objects.

  • Drink plenty of water especially in warm weather.

  • Store garden tools and equipment safely.

  • Observe safety instructions when using potting mix, any sprays or fertilisers.

If you have any health concerns please contact Absolute Medical Services on 02 4328 5200 or visit

Enjoy your time in the garden, and we look forward to seeing you at the Plant Lovers Fair on September 23rd & 24th at Kariong. More information here

By Dr John Schulze

Practice Principal

Absolute Medical Services, Lisarow

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