Fort Berthold Diabetes Program

“Gardening Therapy” 

By Amber Kirk-Health Education Tech


   It’s that time of year that we all enjoy planting and take care of our gardens and crops. This year the diabetes program hopes to have a more bountiful garden for the youth to enjoy. Our goals are to help educate youth in starting, tending, and harvesting a plant of their liking. Gardening has many health benefits, like getting your daily recommendation of 30-60 minutes of physical activity.

How is gardening beneficial to our health mentally, physically, and socially? Only 30 minutes of gardening is reported to better your mood more than 30 minutes of reading. It has also been scientifically found to lower levels of stress hormone in the blood. Historically the mentally ill were treated by working in the garden which is called Horticulture Therapy since the 18th Century. Having flowers or plants around the office or home will not only provide mood boosting effect but help you feel more relaxed, secure, and happy. Studying for a test or exam? Plants help improve focus, concentration, and memory. It was discovered that studying or planning in a room with plants and nature improved memory and attention span by 20% and that helped children with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). How do plants aid with Depression? It is the Mycobacterium Vaccae found in the soil that is linked with the production of serotonin (mood boosting neurotransmitter) in the brain. Horticulture therapy was also implemented with veterans who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

How does gardening improve you physical health? Depending on the size of your garden it can be very physically challenging. Kneeling, stretching, pulling, and reaching for plants improves muscle tone and helps prevent osteoporosis. We have a schedule for our department to tend to the garden every day to keep up with pulling weeds and watering. Weeding and cultivating a garden for an hour you burn up to 204 calories. 

With growing vegetables and fruits it helps promote healthy eating. Gardeners are more likely to continue healthy eating habits even after the harvest season. Increased intake of fruits and vegetables you receive good sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. With some fruits and vegetables being more expensive to buy, you will save more money having your own garden. The daily recommendation for daily intake of fruits and vegetables is five servings. The sunlight exposure helps your bone and immune health by increasing vitamin D synthesis and calcium absorption. It is also researched that people who garden often receive 7 hours of sleep according to the University of Pennsylvania.

Explore your gardening skills, you will surprise yourself on how much you’ll enjoy it!  Try some new healthy recipes by roasting some fruit on the grill as quick easy dessert. Make some fresh energizing smoothies or some tasty vegetable medley salad. From my own experience the food tastes a whole lot better after all the hard work. We also provide healthy cooking demos for the community in efforts to promote healthy eating. We post on our face book page and other social media to promote our upcoming events. 

Amber Kirk

Health Education Technician

Fort Berthold Diabetes Program