A multitude of research shows that those who spend time planting or cultivating a garden can end up reaping a variety of health benefits for the mind, body, and spirit. This is good news for avid gardeners in the Tucson area, many of whom are transplants themselves from the Midwest, East Coast, and other parts of the United States.
One of them is Ken Simkins, who lives with his wife Kathy at Splendido, an all-inclusive community in Oro Valley for those 55 and better. Ken enjoys tending a variety of potted and in-ground plants outside their Villa Home, including a Lady Banks rose (like the famous one in Tombstone) along the wall of the back patio. He also volunteers at Tohono Chul gardens, which, he jokes, “gives me an additional 47 acres to work with.”
Growth of a Gardener
“Gardening is something I’ve done for years, with a lot of education,” says Ken. “It’s been sort of a secondary career, and is now expressed through whatever I can do around our Villa and at Tohono Chul.” A self-described “plant geek,” Ken has tapped into his background in computers to develop a database of the plants he’s worked with in his three years in Arizona. “I have 1,800 so far,” he says.
In addition to working with plants in Tohono Chul’s propagation area, he serves as a docent in the park, teaching and interacting with people. “I enjoy seeing people interact with plants found in the Sonoran Desert,” he says. “It’s really my delight to be going out with a group of young children and noticing their wonder and joy as I point out the special features in the park.”
A Bouquet of Health Benefits
Multiple studies show that gardening is an ideal way to cultivate good health:
Stress relief: Dutch researchers found that gardening fights stress better than other hobbies. In their study, participants who gardened outdoors reported better moods and tested for lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who spent time reading.
Physical activity: Gardening may not burn a lot of calories, but activities like digging and weeding are wonderful forms of low-impact exercise. The stretching and repetitive movements are good for those who may not be able to exercise more vigorously.
Healthy diet: A University of Florida study found that people who learn to garden as children or young adults are far more likely to eat the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and far more likely to enjoy them.
Mood boost: Researchers found that people diagnosed with depression who spent six hours a week gardening showed a measurable improvement in their depressive symptoms; this trend continued for three months after the gardening program stopped.
Dementia fighter: One study tracked more than 2,800 older adults for 16 years and found that physical activity could reduce incidence of future dementia. Specifically, daily gardening reduced subjects’ risk of dementia by 36%!
There’s also no denying that gardening boosts our mood. “I get a sense of well-being while I’m working with plants,” says Ken. “It feels good!”
Interested in learning more about Splendido? For floor plans, photos, and information on upcoming events, visit splendidotucson.com.