A new study reveals that community gardening helps lower stress and anxiety, and reduces cancer risks. Researchers have found that those who gardened had elevated fiber intake and increased physical activity.
A study conducted by Jill Litt, a professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at CU Boulder, funded by the American Cancer Society, was the first-ever, controlled trial of community gardening found that those who started gardening ate more fiber and got more physical activity — two known ways to reduce risk of cancer and chronic diseases. They also saw their levels of stress and anxiety significantly decrease.
During this study, in the spring, Litt recruited 291 non-gardening adults and assigned half of them to the community gardening group and the other half to a control group. The adults in the control group were asked to wait one year to start gardening.
By fall, the adults in the gardening group were eating on average 1.4 grams more fiber per day than the control group. The gardening group’s fiber intake increased around 7%.
Fiber exerts a profound effect on inflammatory and immune responses, influencing everything from how we metabolize food to how healthy our gut microbiome is to how susceptible we are to diabetes and certain cancers. It also helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.
The gardening group also increased their physical activity levels by about 42 minutes per week. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Only a quarter of the U.S. population meet the exercise guidelines. With just two to three visits to the community garden weekly, participants met 28% of that requirement.
The participants in this study also saw that their stress and anxiety levels decrease. Those who came into the study most stressed and anxious saw the greatest reduction in mental health issues.
This article relates to AP biology because as we learned in the blood glucose regulation simulation, exercise and eating well helps regulate blood glucose levels. Fiber also plays an important role in regulating blood glucose levels. It is important to keep your blood sugar levels in range to help prevent or delay long-term health problems. Staying in your target range can also help improve your energy and mood. This is also an example of a negative feedback loop.