A small study from South Korea suggests that gardening may offer physical and psychological benefits for aging women. Although the results do not suggest there is a special benefit from gardening, specifically, they do imply that gardening could be a way to engage elderly women with low-to-moderate physical activities.
The study examined 50 women aged 70 or more who were living at two separate senior community centers. Twenty-four of the women participated in a twice-weekly gardening session (~50min each) from September to November, 2015. The other 26 women did not participate and were the control group.
The gardening sessions involved tasks like garden design, making furrows, making name tags for plots, planting, maintenance activities like fertilizing/weeding/watering/harvesting, and miscellaneous activities like flower arrangement. The activities were selected in order to produce low-to-moderate levels of physical activity. Once the sessions were completed, the participants were assessed and the following observations were made:
- The gardening group had a reduced waist circumference, improved hand dexterity, more muscle mass, better cognitive function, and reported more physical activity (outside of the gardening)
- The control group showed no change in aerobic endurance or hand dexterity and had a slight increase in waist circumference
- Depression scores in the gardening group were unchanged, but they seemed to go down (worsen) in the control group
- 23 out of the 24 gardening participants reported satisfaction with the program
What This Means
Trying to generalize the results of this study is inherently difficult because of how extremely small the sample size is. However, there is an inherent plausibility behind the findings since it isn’t much of a stretch to say that a few periods of low-to-moderate exercise per week can improve some physical measures. Based on this, a good takeaway from these findings might be that about an hour of gardening a few times per week can help improve certain elements of physical fitness and that it may be an activity aging women could find satisfaction in, which is a big plus for ensuring commitment.
Park, S., et. al., “Gardening Intervention for Physical and Psychological Health Benefits in Elderly Women at Community Centers,” HortTechnology, 2016; http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/26/4/474.abstract.