Health Benefits of Gardening with Williamson Health

Apr 05, 2024 at 04:12 pm by RMGadmin

Embracing Spring with Williamson Health
Spring is the perfect time to get outdoors, and gardening can be a great way to enjoy nature while reaping its many health benefits.
In celebration of Occupational Therapy Month, Sara O’Neill, an occupational therapist at Williamson Health’s flagship acute care hospital, Williamson Medical Center, recently shared insights on gardening’s health perks as well as tips for resuming gardening post-illness, injury or reduced mobility.
As an occupational therapist, O’Neill works with patients on the skills they’ll need for daily life, from getting dressed and showering to participating in hobbies. The goal, she said, is to help patients achieve their desired levels of mobility, activity and independence.
“The name ‘occupational therapy,’ can be confusing, but it just means that we are the professionals that can help patients get back to doing the daily activities that are important to them,” O’Neill said. “In the hospital, we’re often helping patients get up and get moving and evaluating their level of mobility and independence. In an outpatient setting, occupational therapists work with patients on things like arm or hand strength as well as ways to modify or adapt tasks so that people can still be independent.”
Often, that includes helping patients engage in physical activities, like gardening. Any activity that gets you up and moving can have physical benefits, O’Neill said.
“Gardening is exercise,” she said. “It can be light exercise, but it helps with physical strength and endurance.”
In addition to gardening, other springtime physical activities to consider include walking, light spring cleaning, golfing, small outdoor projects or visiting the zoo. While O’Neill stressed the importance of consulting a doctor any time you increase your activity level, she said physical activity benefits heart health and helps build physical strength and endurance.
“As we like to say, ‘Motion is lotion,’” O’Neill said. “Gardening and other physical activities that get you moving can be very healthy for the joints and beneficial to your overall health.”
Gardening, as well as simply spending time outdoors, can also have mental health benefits, O’Neill said, including stress relief and providing a sense of purpose.
“Research shows that gardening, which is physical exercise, helps reduce stress hormones and fosters an overall positive attitude,” O’Neill said. “But gardening can also give you a sense of purpose because there is something you have to care for or tend to, which can be helpful when it comes to mental health.”
While gardening is a beloved hobby for many, injuries, illness and even aging can sometimes hinder our ability to participate in the activities we love most.
“Sometimes a patient might say, ‘I used to love gardening, but I don’t know if I can do it anymore because of my knees,’” O’Neill said. “So, we’ll work together to find ways to modify the activity so they can still do what they love.”
When it comes to gardening, O’Neill noted, adaptive tools and raised beds can help alleviate physical strain, allowing enthusiasts to pursue their passion without discomfort.
“Whatever you like to do, as occupational therapists, we can look at the tasks involved and adapt them so you can continue to enjoy that activity,” O’Neill said.
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