Gardening in groups reduces risk of cancer, chronic diseases – study

Science and Health

Numerous articles on popular health topics mention studies that deal with the question of how to prevent cancer. But these results are surprising. 

A new study published earlier this month in The Lancet Planetary Health reported that community gardening has a positive effect on the adult population. The study found that gardening can help reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

According to the research team, nature-based community interventions such as community gardening can alleviate risk factors for non-communicable and chronic diseases like an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and social isolation.

Gardeners eat more dietary fiber, exercise more

In the first-ever randomized controlled trial of community gardening, researchers found that those who gardened with others ate more dietary fiber and exercised more. Their stress and anxiety levels dropped significantly.

For the study, the team surveyed 493 adults between 1 January 2017 and 15 June 2019. To research and gather data, 291 completed baseline measures and were randomly divided into two groups – intervention and control. 

University of Colorado at Boulder Prof. Jill Litt checks on a plant at a community garden in Denver, Colorado. (credit: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado at Boulder)

The intervention group was tasked with doing community gardening using an introductory gardening course through the Denver Urban Gardens Program. But the control group had to wait one year to start gardening. Participants wore activity meters throughout the study. They also had regular body measurements taken and answered periodic surveys about their nutritional intake and mental health.

After analyzing the data, the team reported that community gardening could provide a “nature-based solution” to improve well-being and alleviate risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases in adults.

Gardening can play an important role in preventing cancer

Senior editor Professor Jill Litt, an expert in Boulder’s Department of Environmental Studies, said that these findings provide solid proof that community gardening can play an important role in preventing cancer, chronic disease, and mental health disorders. Litt, who’s also a researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said that in many places people say there’s something about gardening that makes them feel better.

Litt hopes that health professionals, policymakers and urban planners will examine their findings and consider creating community gardens and other spaces that will encourage more people to gather and enjoy nature together.