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Health LeadAccording to research published in the Mental Health Review last month, gardening is one of the most rewarding activities you can pursue, in terms of physical and mental well-being.

Jeff Restuccio, author of Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way, states that gardening activities result in burning 100 to 200 calories every hour, making gardening akin to activities such as jogging or swimming. This is because chores such as mowing, digging, raking, weeding and watering improve endurance, flexibility and strength.

A seasoned gardener will attest to the ‘peace’ that gardening imbues and horticultural therapists, straddling the disciplines of psychology, botany and ecology, are helping people cope with anxiety, depression, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic ailments. I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of indulging in gardening to deal with post-surgical blues and aching bones and joints after a gruelling work week.

Social scientists believe that making gardening a family activity will foster natural bonding among family members and help curb aggression and mood swings among adolescents. Regular watering and weeding schedules helps young people be disciplined and responsible; creating intricate flower bed patterns encourages them to be imaginative and creative, and results in significant improvements in their cognitive abilities. The pride in growing their favourite flowers or veggies even induces them to eat their greens as well.

As with all therapies, benefits from gardening can only be reaped over time and psychologists believe that it can be more effective than behavioural therapy in treating addictions and temper management.

Investing in gardening tools, protective gloves, straw hats and some large pots will get you going. The ultimate high is when you can stand back and admire the fruits of your labour.

So whether you live in an apartment or enjoy the luxury of a garden in your house, horticultural therapy works for everyone.

– Dr Summaiya Syed-Tariq
The writer is a senior forensic practitioner working at the Police Surgeon’s Office, Karachi.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 14, 2014.