Gardening has many benefits. Fresh herbs, sweet flowers, homegrown veggies… the list is endless. But what if it could lower your risk for breast cancer? It’s true. Gardening doesn’t just brighten up your home, but your mind and body, too. In America, breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women. You probably know a person or two that has it. Plus, the disease is the second leading cause of death of women in the country.1 Genetics play a big part. However, adopting certain lifestyle habits can offer some protection. Examples include stress relief, healthy eating, and exercise. Gardening has a place on that list. Here are three reasons to get in touch with your green thumb.
1. Gardening Helps Relieve Stress Levels
Stress is totally normal, but it can harm the body. It releases cortisol, the “stress hormone” which regulates immune and metabolic functions. In high amounts, cortisol also helps cancer grow.2 Gardening can fight that stress. In a study by the Journal of Health Psychology, researchers made 30 people do a stressful task. Afterward, they were randomly assigned 30 minutes of gardening or reading, and their cortisol levels were measured. Both groups saw a decrease, but the gardening group had a greater change.3 It shows how gardening can boost your mental health.
2. Gardening Helps Increase Physical Activity
Physical activity is linked to a lower risk for breast cancer. In fact, it can decrease by 12 percent! The benefits are even stronger postmenopausal women,4 proving that it’s never too late to start. Gardening offers a gentle way to workout. The best part is that it won’t feel like exercise. Regardless, constantly moving your body counts as physical activity.5 As you garden, inflammation and immunity will improve. It’ll also lowers estrogen, a hormone that’s linked to the development of breast cancer. Together, these benefits offer awesome protection.6 If you have physical limitations, don’t worry. Gardening is easy to customize. It can be low-impact or intense, it’s up to you.
3. Gardening Helps Improve Eating Habits
Diet has a huge influence on breast cancer. For instance, processed foods are full of preservatives, sugar, and sodium, all of which contribute to poor health. On the other hand, fruits and veggies are packed with antioxidants. These compounds can protect cells from free radicals and therefore, cancer.7 With gardening, you can grow your own fruits and vegetables. It makes healthy eating fun and easy. Additionally, there’s nothing more satisfying than eating what you grew. As an added bonus, you’ll save money by “shopping” your garden. Long gone are the days of overpriced produce.
Safety Notes For Gardening
Do you have arthritis, back problems, or a healing injury? Ask your doctor if it’s safe to garden. Depending on your condition, she can give you tips to do it safely. Be mindful of hot weather. Stay hydrated and take frequent breaks. Sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen are important items. If you don’t feel well, don’t ignore it. Gardening with headaches or nausea can be dangerous, especially if you’re using sharp tools.8
Are you new to gardening? Give it a try. You don’t need to grow a jungle to reap the benefits. It’s about moving around and having fun!
|↑1||Breast Cancer. WomensHealth.gov.|
|↑2||Moreno-Smith, Myrthala, Susan K. Lutgendorf, and Anil K. Sood. “Impact of stress on cancer metastasis.” Future oncology 6, no. 12 (2010): 1863-1881.|
|↑3||Van Den Berg, Agnes E., and Mariëtte HG Custers. “Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress.” Journal of Health Psychology 16, no. 1 (2011): 3-11.|
|↑4||Wu, Yili, Dongfeng Zhang, and Shan Kang. “Physical activity and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective studies.” Breast cancer research and treatment 137, no. 3 (2013): 869.|
|↑5||What are the physical and mental benefits of gardening? Michigan State University Extension.|
|↑6||Physical Activity and Cancer. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑7||Diet. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑8||Gardening. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|