by Stella 

Garden Harmony: How Gardening Can Reduce Stress and Blood Pressure


If you're reading this, chances are you or your loved ones have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension, indicated by a systolic pressure above 140 or diastolic pressure above 90. Are you curious about hypertension and how to keep your blood pressure in check?

Maybe you're looking to prevent it from worsening. Whatever your reason, I'm here to help you learn how gardening can help with this common health issue. 

The CDC's website gives a very easy-to-understand definition and overview of hypertension. In short, hypertension is blood pressure against artery walls, which fluctuates throughout the day. Systolic pressure (the higher number) measures when the heart pushes out blood, and diastolic pressure (the lower number) measures when the heart rests.

Untreated hypertension can damage organs, so it's crucial to address the root cause. Although the cause of hypertension may not always be easy to pinpoint, lowering blood pressure remains the best approach for maintaining good health.

The therapeutic benefits of gardening in promoting overall well-being

Since it is essential to embark on the journey to lower blood pressure as soon as the diagnosis is given, the task becomes delightful when we immerse ourselves in the therapeutic path of gardening.

This fulfilling activity offers many benefits that transcend the boundaries of mere relaxation, sweaty backs, and dirty palms. Gardening involves more than just planting and observing seeds grow; it is a therapeutic, enjoyable, confidence-boosting, and community-building pursuit.

Beyond its rewards, gardening significantly contributes to the environment, fostering healthy air. Notably, gardening can be a cost-effective means of cultivating fruits and vegetables.

As if these advantages were not enough, I always love to stroll in my garden and sit in the grassy area under my large tree in the backyard, transforming into a sanctuary, alleviating stress, bringing me happiness, and nurturing overall well-being. Join me as we delve into the multifaceted dimensions of gardening.

This green adventure provides a holistic approach to attaining lower blood pressure and cultivating a healthier lifestyle.

Gardening's Heart-Boosting Benefits:

  1. Stress Reduction: Immerse in the calming embrace of nature.
  2. Tailored Exercise: Enjoy customizable, low-to-high-impact workouts amid the greenery.
  3. Blood Pressure Harmony: Actively contributes to reducing hypertension.
  4. Achievement Unlocked: Revel in a tangible sense of accomplishment with each bloom.
  5. Aesthetic Pleasure: Delight in the inherent beauty of the garden, which consists of the plants, flowers, and fruits of our labor.
  6. Creative Outlet: Cultivate a space for inspiration and expression.
  7. Versatility: Whether a modest outdoor garden or a compact indoor herb haven, gardening knows no spatial bounds.
  8. And Beyond, Uncover many additional benefits as you nurture your garden sanctuary.

Cultivating Calm: Stress Reduction Through Gardening

When I plunge my gloved fingers into the soil, a particular grounding sensation surrounds my fingers. It extends the calming sensation to my mind and body. 

Although it is tempting to slip bare hands and sink our fingers into the earth, I recommend donning gloves before delving into the earthy embrace to safeguard against unwelcome microorganisms that may inadvertently find their way onto our skin.

This precaution becomes crucial for individuals with compromised immunity, as these microorganisms could potentially lead to unforeseen health issues.

Yet, the benefits of using gloves extend beyond protection against unseen threats—they shield our hands from scratches, ward off cold temperatures, and prevent sunburn, making the overall gardening experience more enjoyable and worry-free.

The tactile experience of feeling the soil and skillfully packing it into a pot or the ground is incredibly satisfying. This simple act brings a profound sense of connection and accomplishment to my gardening journey.

I would like to know if others share this sentiment. If you, too, find joy and satisfaction in the tactile rituals of gardening, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Your experiences might echo or differ from mine. Feel free to share your insights, and let's cultivate a conversation about the grounding allure of gardening. 

The connection between stress relief and achieving blood pressure harmony

This systematic review incorporated 42 records in this meta-analysis, determining that indoor plants positively impact participants' functions, especially promoting a relaxed physiological state and improving cognitive processes.

I want to further extrapolate from this study that having green spaces in and around offices, our homes, and the community contributes to better overall health with a more relaxed atmosphere and increased quality of life. 

In this meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, twelve studies were incorporated, all employing the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. 

The results indicated a noteworthy systolic and diastolic blood pressure reduction by 6.64 and 2.47 mm Hg, respectively, immediately post-intervention. Notably, the decrease in diastolic blood pressure was sustained for a period extending from 3 to 6 months following the initial recruitment.

These results emphasize the efficacy of the MBSR program in supporting sustained blood pressure management, underscoring the value of mindfulness practices as beneficial additions to comprehensive health approaches.

The Exercise Equation: Physical Activity in the Garden

Gardening is not just a leisurely pastime; it's an invigorating workout that engages various muscle groups, promoting physical health and overall well-being.

The repetitive and dynamic nature of gardening tasks involves a surprising array of muscles, offering a holistic approach to fitness.

  1. Core Muscles: When we bend to pick up a flower pot, twist to grab a shovel, and reach to bring the watering can closer while we are out in our gardens, it engages the core muscles. Maintaining balance during these movements strengthens the abdominal muscles and improves core stability.
  2. Leg Muscles: Tasks such as digging, planting, and walking around the garden work the leg muscles. This includes the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles, improving lower body strength and endurance.
  3. Arms and Shoulders: Digging, weeding, and lifting bags of soil or plants activate the muscles in the arms and shoulders. These repetitive movements can enhance our upper body strength and tone the biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles.  
  4. Back Muscles: The constant bending and lifting in gardening strengthens the back muscles. This helps improve posture, stretch the lower back, and reduce the risk of back pain.
  5. Hand and Grip Strength: Tasks like pruning, weeding, and using gardening tools enhance hand and grip strength. These gardening activities can be particularly beneficial for individuals looking to maintain agility and prevent hand-related issues.  
  6. Cardiovascular System: While gardening may not replace a dedicated cardio workout, continuous and moderate-intensity activities like digging or raking can contribute to cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate and promoting circulation.

In essence, gardening provides a multifaceted workout, ensuring that various muscle groups are activated and strengthened. It not only adds an element of physical fitness to daily activities but also makes caring for plants a rewarding and health-enhancing experience.

Gardening contributes to an active lifestyle and improved heart health.

The findings in a study by Park et al. indicated that participants involved in the gardening intervention, characterized as a form of low to moderate physical activity, experienced noteworthy enhancements in several health markers.

These improvements included a significant rise in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) good cholesterol levels, positive changes in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and favorable alterations in immunity-related variables. 

Specifically, there was a decrease in tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), an indicator of inflammation in the blood, and a reduction in the development of the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) connected with oxidative stress.

In conclusion, the results further provided evidence of the positive impact of gardening as a low to moderate-impact exercise on various health indicators. All this medical jargon points to decreased inflammation and better heart health.

The role of physical exercise in achieving Blood Pressure Harmony

We all know that regular exercise has been consistently linked to maintaining optimal blood pressure levels, contributing to the overall well-being of the cardiovascular system. Physical activities such as gardening enhance blood circulation, strengthen the heart muscle, and efficiently regulate blood pressure.

Serene Soil: Impact on Hypertension Levels

In 2019, a comprehensive survey was conducted in the USA involving a statistically significant sample of adults aged 65 and older, encompassing both genders. Participants were categorized into three distinct groups: individuals who engage in gardening (10.2%), those who partake in regular exercise (60%), and nonexercisers (30.8%). 

A compelling narrative unfolds that gardeners exhibited superior mental and physical well-being, particularly in cardiovascular health. Notably, they reported a lower prevalence of chronic diseases, showcased healthier dietary habits and demonstrated a reduced risk of 10-year mortality.

Furthermore, they exhibited a diminished likelihood of developing diabetes compared to exercisers and nonexercisers. Therefore, this study underscores the profound health benefits of gardening among the elderly population. 

Gardening is one of my most enjoyable hobbies. I find great joy in cultivating plants, especially when planting shrubs, seeds, and new evergreens into beautiful pots.

It gives me immense pleasure to nurture them with the right amount of water and explore the fascinating world of propagation. This allows me to share my passion for gardening with my beloved friends.

Engaging in the process of gardening brings about a lovely sense of relaxation. During these moments, I experience an overall serenity, marked by slower breathing, relaxed shoulders, a tension-free neck, and a calm heart rate.

Although I've yet to quantify the impact through before-and-after gardening blood pressure readings for myself – a practice I intend to initiate – I confidently assert that my blood pressure is noticeably lower post-gardening.

I usually feel happier, more relaxed, and less tense after a few hours working in the garden or just pruning the leaves of my indoor plants. This realization strengthens my conviction in the therapeutic influence of gardening on both my physical and mental well-being.

In harmony and serenity, gardening is a therapeutic symphony for achieving blood pressure harmony. Amidst the rustling leaves and vibrant blooms, the tending to plants is soothing for my wary soul.

The calming effects of nature, seamlessly interwoven with the tactile engagement of planting and nurturing, create a sanctuary of tranquility. As my hands dig into the soil, stress dissipates, replaced by a sense of peace extending to the core.

In my garden, be it my backyard, my indoor window herb garden, or indoor plants around the house, the greenery is a canvas for mindfulness, orchestrating a symphony where blood pressure finds its natural rhythm, harmonizing with the cadence of nature's healing touch.

In the gentle sway of leaves and the bloom of flowers, I discover not just a few plants but a therapeutic refuge where the mind and blood pressure intertwine in perfect harmony.

Nature's Stress Buster: Gardening for Emotional Well-being

Numerous research studies over the years have explored the positive effects of gardening on mental health. A comprehensive review encompassing ten papers published since 2003 that met the inclusion criteria revealed consistently positive outcomes. 

The findings unanimously highlighted the efficacy of gardening as a mental health therapy for service users, showcasing a notable reduction in symptoms related to depression and anxiety.

Beyond these psychological benefits, participants expressed a spectrum of positive impacts across emotional, social, vocational, physical, and spiritual domains, providing a holistic perspective on the therapeutic power of gardening.  

Furthermore, other research papers consistently show evidence that gardening can reduce anxiety, improve depression, and enhance cognitive functions, such as memory and mood.

This meta-analysis of 22 geographically diverse case studies was reviewed in January 2016 and reported reductions in depression, anxiety, and BMI (Body Mass Index), an increase in life satisfaction, an increase in quality of life, and an increase in the sense of community with gardening. 

This analysis has proven that gardening positively impacts physical health, improves mental health, and strengthens happiness and satisfaction with life. 

"The results presented here suggest that gardening can improve physical, psychological, and social health, which can, from a long-term perspective, alleviate and prevent various health issues facing today's society."

Masashi Soga, Kevin J. Gaston, Yuichi Yamaura

Another notable paper documented data from this therapeutic horticulture program collected the data and demonstrated that the mental health benefits increased during the intervention. 

And get this – the positive changes in how the participants felt stuck around even after three months! Plus, almost 40% of the participants mentioned getting more social after the intervention.

It's not just a short-lived boost. Most participants reported increased social interactions and activities after the program.

As depression and anxiety diminish, we witness a notable shift in the mind towards a state of tranquility. This transformation turns into a reduction in blood pressure as the body readily exits the heightened fight-or-flight mode.

The connection between mental well-being and physiological response becomes a compelling narrative, underscoring the profound impact of alleviating emotional distress on the overall harmony of mind and body.

With so many benefits from gardening, here are some ideas to consider when creating an outside garden or picking plants for an indoor oasis:

  1. Calming Plant Choices: Select plants with soothing scents and colors, such as lavender and cool-toned flowers.
  2. Texture and Touch: Integrate varied textures like soft foliage, smooth stones, and plush seating for sensory comfort.
  3. Sensory Elements: Add wind chimes, a water feature, and bird feeders to stimulate the senses.
  4. Comfortable Seating: Invest in cozy outdoor furniture or create inviting nooks with cushions and throws.
  5. Natural Shades and Sunlight: Design shaded and sunny spots using pergolas, umbrellas, or trees.
  6. Personal Retreats: Carve out spaces for personal reflection with comfortable chairs and simple altars.
  7. Edible Delights: Plant herbs and edible flowers for a sensory culinary experience.
  8. Flowing Layouts: Create meandering paths for gentle strolls and a sense of intrigue.
  9. Mood-Enhancing Colors: Use calming hues and greens and joyful warm tones strategically.
  10. Simplified Maintenance: Opt for low-maintenance elements to avoid stress

The role of gardening as a natural stress buster in the pursuit of blood pressure harmony

I want to provide further evidence that gardening positively impacts our well-being by highlighting a subsequent study in Singapore, where community gardeners exhibited higher resilience and optimism than non-gardeners. 

The result further demonstrated the correlation between successful gardening and heightened self-esteem as a critical factor, fostering personal well-being and positively influencing interpersonal relationships.

Reflecting on these insights underscores the transformative power of gardening in cultivating plants and a resilient and optimistic outlook that blossoms within the individual and radiates outward into the community.

Nutrient-Rich Bounty: Heart-Healthy Produce from the Garden

One of the most delicious and environmentally friendly perks of gardening is producing and harvesting our fruits and vegetables.  

Beyond the sheer delight for our taste buds, growing our fruits and veggies at home promotes a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle. It's a delicious way to contribute to our heart health while leaving a smaller ecological footprint. 

So, let's talk tomatoes, celebrate cucumbers, and revel in the joy of cultivating a heart-healthy harvest right in our backyard.

Nutritional benefits of a garden-fresh diet in supporting heart health

My neighbor has the most beautiful and bountiful tomato garden. Every summer and fall, I get to share in the joy of enjoying fresh, sweet tomatoes. Tomatoes wake up the taste buds and a burst of vibrant color in our backyard.

The rich reds, yellows, and oranges of the tomatoes add a lively touch to the green foliage. There's a distinct pleasure in plucking a ripe tomato straight from the vine, feeling its warmth in your hands, and savoring that sun-ripened flavor. It's a simple yet profound experience that connects us to the seasons and the earth.

Besides their delicious taste, tomatoes have two essential nutrients that significantly impact heart health: lycopene and potassium. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins C and K, and potassium, tomatoes promote heart health, strengthen bones, and support overall well-being.

So, indulging in these homegrown tomatoes satisfies the palate and contributes to a heart-healthy lifestyle, reminding us that sometimes, the most delightful things are found in our backyard gardens.

Mindful Gardening: Engaging the Mind for Blood Pressure Wellness

To demonstrate that gardening engages the mind, in this study, 41 seniors eagerly embraced a 20-minute low to moderate-intensity gardening intervention to cultivate a vegetable garden. 

This engaging gardening session encompassed six activities, ranging from cleaning a garden plot to the rhythmic tasks of digging, fertilizing, raking, and the delicate art of planting or transplanting, all culminating in a refreshing watering session.

Blood samples were meticulously collected before and after the gardening activity to gauge the levels of brain nerve growth factors. The compelling findings revealed a significant increase in these factors after the gardening session.

This increase in brain nerve growth factors holds promise in enhancing memory and cognitive functions among senior individuals, shedding light on the mental benefits that bloom from the simple joys of gardening.

This gardening intervention spanning 12 weeks, similar to the study in the preceding section, yielded positive outcomes by enhancing physical prowess, fortifying the immune system, and bolstering muscle strength and flexibility.

Additionally, it brought about reductions in blood pressure, waist circumference, and cholesterol levels.

In a broader context, the positive impact of gardening extends beyond the physical realm. The evidence suggests that gardening through a 12-week intervention or regular gardening practices enhances physical health and contributes to cognitive well-being.

The observed improvements in memory and the consistent findings of reduced blood pressure reinforce the notion that cultivating a garden is a holistic endeavor that nurtures both mind and body. 

Promoting mindfulness in the garden for overall heart health

My garden, a sanctuary of tranquility and refuge from the world that judges and offers no mercy, provides a unique space to escape for peace and meditation—a state of focused awareness of the present moment.

This intentional presence reduces stress and establishes a profound connection between mind and body. Intentionally practicing mindfulness in the garden is therapeutic and harmonizes with the rhythm of one's heartbeat, encouraging a state of calm that resonates throughout the entire cardiovascular system.

 It's more than just tending to plants; it's a mindful journey toward a healthier heart and a balanced, rejuvenated self.

In Summary, here is a recap of Gardening's Heart-Boosting Benefits:

  1. Stress Reduction
  2. Tailored Exercise
  3. Blood Pressure Harmony
  4. Achievement Unlocked
  5. Aesthetic Pleasure
  6. Creative Outlet
  7. Versatility

I invite you to go beyond the delightful act of tending to plants by creating a path to well-being for your heart and overall health. Gardening is not just a hobby but a holistic approach. It is a mindful journey where stress dissipates, exercise becomes a joyful routine, and blood pressure finds its harmonious rhythm.

Let your garden be a sanctuary where your heart finds solace. As we nurture your plants, we encourage our mental and physical health.

So, grab those gardening tools, dig into the soil, and let the journey toward heart health and hypertension wellness begin.

Our hearts, like gardens, have the potential to flourish with the proper care and attention. Happy gardening!

  • Han KT, Ruan LW, Liao LS. "Effects of Indoor Plants on Human Functions: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses." Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jun 17;19(12):7454. [DOI: 10.3390/ijerph19127454] PMID: 35742700; PMCID: PMC9224521.
  • Susan Veldheer, Wen-Jan Tuan, Laila Al-Shaar, Martha Wadsworth, Lawrence Sinoway, Kathryn H. Schmitz, Christopher Sciamanna, Xiang Gao. "Gardening Is Associated With Better Cardiovascular Health Status Among Older Adults in the United States: Analysis of the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey." Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 123, Issue 5, 2023, Pages 761-769.e3. [DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2022.10.018]
  • Clatworthy, J., Hinds, J., & Camic, P. M. (2013). "Gardening as a mental health intervention: A review." Mental Health Review Journal, 18(4), 214–225. [DOI: 10.1108/MHRJ-02-2013-0007]
  • Masashi Soga, Kevin J. Gaston, Yuichi Yamaura. "Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis." Preventive Medicine Reports, Volume 5, 2017, Pages 92-99. [DOI: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007]
  • Koay WI, Dillon D. "Community Gardening: Stress, Well-Being, and Resilience Potentials." Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 16;17(18):6740. [DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17186740] PMID: 32947857; PMCID: PMC7558991.
  • Park SA, Lee AY, Park HG, Lee WL. "Benefits of Gardening Activities for Cognitive Function According to Measurement of Brain Nerve Growth Factor Levels." Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Mar 2;16(5):760. [DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16050760] PMID: 30832372; PMCID: PMC6427672.

About the author 

Healing hearts, one prescription at a time. Clinical pharmacist by day, plant whisperer and piano enthusiast by night. Passionate about optimizing health and promoting self-care. Join me on this journey of growth, harmony, and nurturing both mind and soul. Let's bloom together! 🌱🎶

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