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Gardening is one of the most popular pastimes in America, and it’s no surprise – it’s something that everyone can do, offers a variety of benefits and is simply fun. During the pandemic, more and more individuals became “urban farmers” or discovered the joy of gardening. It’s a small wonder that there’s such a focus on it these days.

“The nice part of gardening becoming so popular is that it makes it even more accessible for everyone,” says Marcos Gonzalez, Director of Sales of East Ridge at Cutler Bay, a Miami-Dade County Life Plan Community with one story living on 76 acres of green space. “Considering how many benefits it provides older adults, this is great news.”

Marcos says that gardening is one of the best activities to do that produces mental, emotional and physical health benefits. It’s a well-rounded exercise that stimulates the senses, helps boost mood and reduce depression, and uses multiple areas of your brain. And, of course, it rewards you with beautiful flowers and delicious produce.

“We have a very active gardening club at East Ridge at Cutler Bay, due in part to our lovely tropical weather,” Marcos says. “Our residents absolutely love putting their time and effort into making living works of art. I’m always blown away by the talent we have in our community. Every season is an opportunity to see new wonders.”

Besides being a fun pastime, here are seven other benefits that gardening has for individuals of all ages – and especially for us as we age.

1. It’s an excellent form of exercise.
Usually when you think of “exercise,” you think of running, hitting a machine at the gym or doing something else that often requires specialized equipment or clothing. Gardening doesn’t often spring to mind, but if you’re looking for something that burns calories, builds resistance, strengthens muscles, improves flexibility and keeps your mind sharp, you couldn’t pick a better form of exercise. Digging in the dirt, spreading mulch, lugging around equipment and pulling weeds can burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories per hour. Between that calorie burn and the stretching, squatting, lifting and other activities you’ll be doing, you easily get a full-body workout without ever having to step foot in a gym.

2. It’s a natural stress-reliever.
You probably already know that both exercise and enjoyable activities produce endorphins and help reduce the levels of cortisol in your body. Gardening is a perfect blend of enjoyment and exercise, providing creativity and a sense of accomplishment as well as physical exertion. Plus, being outside in the sun and fresh air helps improve moods, so gardening gives you a triple-whammy of good vibes. Ask anyone who has gardened for a long time, and we bet they’ll tell you that, even though gardening can be hard work, it can also be one of the most peaceful and stress-free pastimes they can think of.

3. It makes you happy.
Creative activities and doing things we enjoy boost our body’s production of serotonin. This “happy hormone” improves moods, lowers our risk of depression and reduces stress. Serotonin provides that calm, happy and satisfied feeling you get when you do something you absolutely love. Gardening boosts your body’s production of serotonin, which is the “happy hormone.” Serotonin naturally helps reduce cortisol, which puts us in a much better, calmer and happier mood. This helps you feel better and it also helps reduce your risk of a variety of diseases and health issues too.

4. It’s great for your heart.
The CDC recommends that individuals get a balanced amount of aerobic activity and strength resistance to help keep their cardiovascular system in shape. Gardening certainly provides that type of exercise – but it also gives your workout a turbo boost from the big dose of vitamin D you get from being out in natural light. Vitamin D, which you get from the sun’s rays, plays a huge role in helping reduce your risk of heart disease and keeping your heart healthy.

5. It improves balance.
Falling and the injuries associated with falling are one of the biggest risks for seniors. In fact, falls are the number one cause of emergency room visits for those 65 and older. That’s because as we age, muscles become weaker, and our balance gets worse. This means we’re not quite as steady on our feet as we were when we were younger, so when we trip over something or stumble, we’re less able to stop ourselves from falling and end up with broken bones, dislocated joints and torn muscles. The best thing seniors can do to help reduce their risk of falling is through strength and resistance exercises – like you get from gardening. Gardening is an excellent form of low-impact strength training, making it perfect for older adults with mobility issues.

6. It gets your mind moving.
Gardening isn’t just a physical activity. It engages our entire bodies, including that most important organ – your brain. Keeping your brain active and stimulated greatly helps reduce your risk of developing dementia. In fact, according to some studies, gardening can help lower your dementia risk by up to 36 percent. Individuals who are dedicated gardeners get the benefit of dexterity exercises, sensory stimulation, endurance and problem-solving – all things that require you to work different parts of your brain to the fullest. In other words, it’s the perfect cocktail for a brain-boosting activity.

7. It boosts immunity.
Getting dirty can be messy, but it certainly doesn’t hurt us. In fact, dirt can literally help us be healthier. Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium present in garden soil, has been proven to help improve immune systems and reduce the risk of asthma, allergies and skin issues like psoriasis.

When it comes to activities and exercises you can enjoy no matter how old you get, you’d be hard-pressed to beat gardening. Whether you prefer tending a window box or landscaping an entire yard, the great outdoors – and all its benefits – are waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

About East Ridge at Cutler Bay

East Ridge at Cutler Bay is Miami-Dade County’s only true Life Plan Community. The nonprofit community draws from the neighborhood charm of suburban Cutler Bay and the vibrancy of Miami in a lush tropical setting of 76 acres, located at 19301 SW 87th Avenue. The community offers a continuum of care including independent living, assisted living and memory support residences in a neighborhood setting; respite care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation are available within Three Palms Health Center.

For more information or to schedule a tour, please call 305-290-2346.