Gardening has great mental and physical health benefits. Here's why you should pull weeds and plant seeds.

A woman kneeling on the grass with flowerpots around her.
There are so many benefits to gardening. Here's what to know. (Getty Creative)

Do you have a green thumb? Even if the answer is no, gardening is one hobby you may want to pick up for the health benefits alone. Studies show that all that time outdoors pulling weeds, planting seeds and tending to your yard can reap big rewards for your overall well-being.

Ready to hit the plant nursery? Read on to see just how gardening improves both mental and physical health — and why you’ll want to also take a stab at growing fruits and vegetables in addition to beautiful blooms.

  • People who spent time in gardens and green spaces had improved mental and physical health, a 2018 analysis from the United Kingdom found. Among other benefits, researchers cited exposure to vitamin D, the social interaction found in community gardens and the physical labor that can lead to better balance, strength and dexterity.

  • Research from 2017 found those who gardened had a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as increases in quality of life, sense of community, physical activity levels and cognitive function.

  • A 2024 umbrella review of previous studies on gardening published in Systematic Reviews concluded that gardening and horticultural therapy improves mental well-being, quality of life and overall health.

  • A 2021 study found that gardening therapy had positive effects on people with dementia, improving their engagement, reducing agitation and depression and potentially decreasing medication needs.

  • A 2023 study published in The Lancet Planetary Health found that people who participated in a community garden ate more fiber, were more physically active and had lower stress levels than those who did not.

  • While a just-published 2024 study involving older cancer survivors did not see a significant improvement in diet, physical activity and physical function after a vegetable gardening intervention, those who took part in the gardening did increase their vegetable and fruit consumption. They also experienced significant improvements in perceived health and physical performance compared with peers who did not garden.

Dr. Andrea Papa, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Advantage Behavioral Health, tells Yahoo Life that there are several reasons why gardening can support your mental health. When you garden, your focus is on the “process,” and not necessarily on other aspects of your life that may cause you stress, she says. “You are out of your head, you’re not necessarily thinking about what happened at work — you’re at peace with yourself.”

There are also mental health benefits to simply being outside, Papa says. A major one is getting vitamin D from the sun; a deficiency in vitamin D has been associated with impaired mental health.

While gardening is often a solo activity, joining a gardening program, such as pitching in with a community garden, can have a positive impact on your mental well-being. “You’re going to have collaboration, which can help build friendships — and we know friendships are great for our mental health,” Papa says. “As humans, we crave human contact. I would say it’s a good thing to do it with other people. While there are times we may want to be by ourselves … as a whole, I think it’s a good idea to garden with others.”

Dr. Shivani Amin, who specializes in functional medicine, tells Yahoo Life that gardening helps lower our levels of cortisol, a hormone that regulates stress.

Gardening can be great for your cardiovascular health, as the act of gardening can get your heart rate up, whether that’s through pulling weeds or digging holes for your new plant friends.

“Cardiovascular health improves with any exercise that repeatedly causes heart rate elevations,” physician Dr. Gerda Maissel, founder of patient advocate service My MD Advisor, tells Yahoo Life. “Improved cardiovascular health reduces the risk of strokes and heart attacks.”

Maissel says that the caloric burn of gardening depends on what you are doing, as vigorous digging is going to burn more calories than, say, trimming flowers. “In general, gardening is considered a low to moderate activity level, which will burn approximately 90 to 160 calories per hour,” Maissel explains.

Sneaking in extra cardio through an activity like gardening may also lead to results like better sleep and weight management, Maissel notes.

Moving in general can be important for our physical health, even if we aren’t spiking our heart rate, says Amin. “Our bodies are not designed to be sitting at our computers for hours on end, so gardening incorporates everyday movements that contribute to improved physical health,” she explains. “At minimum, gardening involves standing up, bending down and walking around, which benefit cardiovascular health, increase flexibility and mobility and strengthen muscles.”

Amin notes that tasks like digging, weeding or carrying heavy loads such as bags of soil, pots or plants can specifically strengthen the back, shoulders, arms and legs.

But it’s not just the actual act of gardening that can improve your physical health. Having a garden can also improve the quality of your diet — if your focus is on growing food, that is.

Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a physician specializing in internal medicine and a medical reviewer for the National Council on Aging, tells Yahoo Life that those who garden are more likely to grow their own food, which “can lead to healthier eating habits and better nutrition.” It also “gives you access to fresh, organic produce and reduces your intake of pesticides and chemicals, which is great for your overall health.”

Adds Amin: “What’s available to you, you’re more likely to eat.”