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Benefits of Gardening Activities for Cognitive Function According to Measurement of Brain Nerve Growth Factor Levels

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The objective of this study was to determine the effects of gardening activities in senior individuals on brain nerve growth factors related to cognitive function. Forty-one senior individuals (age 76.6 ± 6.0 years) were recruited from the local community in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South Korea. A 20-min low-to-moderate intensity gardening activity intervention, making a vegetable garden, was performed by the subjects in a garden plot located on the Konkuk University (Seoul, South Korea) campus. The gardening involved six activities including cleaning a garden plot, digging, fertilizing, raking, planting/transplanting, and watering. To determine the effects of the gardening activities on brain nerve growth factors related to memory, blood samples were drawn twice from each subject before and after the gardening activity by professional nurses. The levels of brain nerve growth factors, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF), were analyzed. Levels of BDNF and PDGF were significantly increased after the gardening activity. This study revealed a potential benefit of gardening activities for cognitive function in senior individuals.
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International Journal of
Environmental Research
and Public Health
Article
Benefits of Gardening Activities for Cognitive
Function According to Measurement of Brain Nerve
Growth Factor Levels
Sin-Ae Park 1, *, A-Young Lee 1, Hee-Geun Park 2and Wang-Lok Lee 3
1Department of Environmental Health Science, Sanghuh College of Life Science, Konkuk University,
Seoul 05029, Korea; danapre@nate.com
2Sport Science Center, Daejeon 35021, Korea; exepre@cnu.ac.kr
3Department of Sport Science, Chugnam National University, Daejeon 34134, Korea; leewl@cnu.ac.kr
*Correspondence: sapark42@konkuk.ac.kr; Tel.: +82-2-450-0537
Received: 4 February 2019; Accepted: 26 February 2019; Published: 2 March 2019


Abstract:
The objective of this study was to determine the effects of gardening activities in senior
individuals on brain nerve growth factors related to cognitive function. Forty-one senior individuals
(age 76.6
±
6.0 years) were recruited from the local community in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
A 20-min low-to-moderate intensity gardening activity intervention, making a vegetable garden, was
performed by the subjects in a garden plot located on the Konkuk University (Seoul, South Korea)
campus. The gardening involved six activities including cleaning a garden plot, digging, fertilizing,
raking, planting/transplanting, and watering. To determine the effects of the gardening activities on
brain nerve growth factors related to memory, blood samples were drawn twice from each subject
before and after the gardening activity by professional nurses. The levels of brain nerve growth
factors, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor
(VEGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF), were analyzed. Levels of BDNF and PDGF
were significantly increased after the gardening activity. This study revealed a potential benefit of
gardening activities for cognitive function in senior individuals.
Keywords:
complementary and medicine; exercise intervention; horticultural therapy; socio horticulture;
older adults
1. Introduction
Brain function and memory decline in the aging process [
1
]. The volume and weight of the
brain decrease at a rate of approximately 5% per decade after 40 years of age, with the actual rate of
decline possibly increasing with older age, particularly > 70 years [
2
,
3
]. The hippocampus is a small
organ located within the brain’s medial temporal lobe, and is associated primarily with memory [
4
6
].
A large hippocampal size is associated with good memory and cognitive function; however, atrophy
of the hippocampus is associated with the development of dementia [
7
]. In Alzheimer ’s disease and
other forms of dementia, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to exhibit damage
such as short-term memory loss and disorientation [8,9].
Previous studies have reported that participation in physical activity is associated with increased
memory and cognition [
10
,
11
]. Acute aerobic physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive
function [
12
14
], short-term memory and long-term memory [
15
20
]. Long-term cardiovascular
exercise has been associated with improvement in short-term and long-term memory [2022].
Brain nerve growth factors related to memory and cognitive function, such as brain-derived
neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), are currently considered
to be key proteins that are up-regulated after exercise [
23
25
] and can promote cell proliferation
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019,16, 760; doi:10.3390/ijerph16050760 www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019,16, 760 2 of 9
and growth, as well as neuronal development and functioning [
26
,
27
]. Moreover, platelet-derived
growth-factor (PDGF) has been shown to promote blood vessel growth and neuronal survival
[28,29]
.
Exercise has been shown to increase BDNF expression in the hippocampus and 0-cortical
regions
[25,3033]
, and increases in BDNF levels have been associated with exercise-induced benefits
in hippocampal-dependent memory [33].
Previous studies have reported that gardening can be considered aerobic and muscular
exercise [
34
36
]. A 12-week gardening intervention improved physical functional ability, the immune
system, muscle strength and flexibility, and reduced blood pressure, waist circumference,
and cholesterol levels [
37
,
38
]. Various common gardening activities, such as digging, raking,
planting/transplanting, weeding, watering and harvesting, are considered to be low-to-moderate
intensity physical activities in seniors [
35
,
39
,
40
]. Moreover, the benefits of cognitive function and
memory resulting from gardening intervention as a physical activity have been described. For example,
a 20-session horticultural therapy program, designed with common gardening activities, significantly
improved cognitive function in senior individuals with dementia [
41
]. Another study reported
improved cognitive function in senior individuals with dementia who participated in an 18-session
horticultural therapy program compared with a control group [42].
However, there is insufficient research examining the effects of gardening as a physical activity
on cognitive function according to measurement of brain nerve growth factor levels. Accordingly,
the objective of this study was to measure changes in key proteins related to cognitive function, such as
BDNF, PDGF, and VEGF, through short-term, low-to-moderate intensity gardening activity in elderly
individuals > 65 years of age.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Subjects
To recruit subjects aged over 65 years, the researchers visited community and welfare centers
located in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South Korea. After providing an explanation about the study and a
flyer, including study objectives, procedure, measurements and schedule, 41 individuals aged over
65 years volunteered to participate in this study. Inclusion criteria were that participants were aged
over 65 years, with no physical disability, and no severe chronic disease. Requirements for participation
in this study were fasting for 9 h before blood sampling and completing a 20 min gardening activity.
Informed written consent was obtained from each subject before starting the study.
A questionnaire, including questions regarding age, sex, current diseases and medications,
was completed by the subjects. Before starting the gardening activity, each subject’s body composition,
including body weight (g), lean mass (g), fat mass (g), percent fat (%), and body mass index (BMI),
were measured using a body fat analyzer (ioi 353; Jawon Medical, Gyeongsan, South Korea). Height
was measured using an anthropometer (Ok7979; Samhwa, Seoul, South Korea) without shoes.
On completion of the study, the subjects received an incentive (approximately $20 USD). This
study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Konkuk University (7001355-201711-HR-212).
A 20-min gardening activity intervention with low-to-moderate intensity gardening activities was
designed as a physical activity intervention, with an average of 3.5 metabolic equivalents (METs) based
on previous studies (Table 1) [
35
]. The intensity of physical activity can be expressed as METs [
43
].
METs > 3 to 6 indicate moderate-intensity physical activity, while METs < 3 represent low intensity [
43
].
In a previous study, gardening activities, such as digging, raking, and fertilizing, were considered to be
moderate-intensity physical activities in individuals aged over 65 years [
35
]. Gardening activities, such
as planting/transplanting and watering using watering cans, were low-intensity physical activities in
older adults aged over 65 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least
30 min of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week for health maintenance and
improvement [43,44].
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019,16, 760 3 of 9
In the present study, the gardening activity intervention consisted of six activities, including
cleaning a garden plot (3.4 METs) for 2 min, digging (4.5 METs) for 5 min, fertilizing (4.0 METs)
for 3 min, raking (3.4 METs) for 3 min, transplanting plants (2.9 METs) for 5 min, and watering
using a watering can (2.8 METs) for 2 min (Table 1) [
35
]. The gardening activity was performed in a
garden plot previously prepared on the Konkuk University campus. The subjects visited the Konkuk
University campus once for this study and were assigned to a garden plot (1
×
1.8 m) for the gardening
activity. The subjects were asked to wear comfortable clothes and shoes for gardening. Weather
conditions during gardening were temperature 5.6
C and relative humidity 50.0% (Meteorological
Administration of South Korea).
Table 1.
Gardening activities, making an vegetable garden plot performed by the subjects in the study
of benefits gardening activities for memory according to measurement of brain growth factor levels.
Activity Mean Time (min) Description Estimated MET Values 1
Cleaning garden plot 2 Removing weeds and fallen leaves in the garden plot 3.4
Digging 5
Digging a 1m (w)
×
1.8 m (l) garden plot with a shovel (1.3 kg)
4.5
Fertilizing 3
Spreading fertilizer using a bucket (22 cm (d) ×9 cm (h);
average 8.1 L) on the garden plot and then mixing it into the
soil using a shovel
4.0
Raking 3 Raking the garden plot using a hand rake (0.9 kg), then
making four furrows using a hand rake (0.9 kg) 3.4
Transplanting plant 5 Transplanting lettuce plants (average 23 plants) into the
garden plot using a hand trowel (0.1 kg) 2.9
Watering using a watering can 2 Watering plants using a watering can (average 5.7 L) 2.8
(Total 20 min) (Mean 3.5 METs)
1MET = metabolic equivalents.
2.2. Assessments
To measure changes in brain nerve growth factors that are related to hippocampal blood flow,
volume, and memory performance, BDNF, PDGF, and VEGF were analyzed. Three professional nurses
obtained a 7 mL blood sample twice from each subject before and after the 20 min gardening activity,
respectively. The blood samples were subsequently stored in vacutainers packed in ice and transferred
to a laboratory at Chungnam National University (Daejeon, South Korea) for analysis. The blood
was centrifuged and the serum was stored in microcentrifuge tubes (Eppendorf, USA) in a freezer at
80
C. Factors were measured according to protocols supplied by the manufacturer, performed using
sandwich ELISA kits for BDNF, PDGF, and VEGF (AbCAM systems, Cambridge, MA, USA). Readings
were performed using a microplate reader (Bio-Rad, Hercules, CA, USA) adjusted to a wavelength of
490 nm.
2.3. Data Analysis
Demographic information was analyzed using spreadsheet software in Excel (Office 2016;
Microsoft Crop., Redmond, WA, USA). To analyze differences in factors, such as BDNF, PDGF, and
VEGF, before and after the gardening activity program, a paired t-test was performed. To compare
gender difference for the BDNF, PDGF, and VEGF, independent samples t-test was used; p< 0.05
was considered to be statistically significant. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS (24.0 for
windows; IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA).
3. Results
3.1. Demographic Information
The characteristics of the subjects who participated in this study are summarized in Table 2.
The mean age of the subjects was 76.6
±
6.0 years, with males and females comprising 31.7% and
68.3% of the cohort, respectively. The mean BMI of the subjects was 25.4
±
3.8 kg/m
2
. which is in the
overweight range, and 48.8% of the subjects had at least one chronic disease.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019,16, 760 4 of 9
Table 2. Demographic characteristics of the participants (n= 41).
Variable Gardening Intervention Group
Sex
Male 13 (31.7) 1
Female 28 (68.3)
Age (years) 76.6 ±6.0 1
Height (cm) 154.7 ±8.1
Body composition
Body weight (kg) 60.3 ±10.1
Body mass index (kg/m2)25.4 ±3.8
Lean mass (kg) 37.6 ±6.1
Fat mass (kg) 19.6 ±7.2
Percent fat (%) 31.5 ±8.7
Age-adjusted maximum heart rate (beats/min) 143.4 ±6.0
Current disease
Diabetes 7 (28.0)
Hyperlipidemia 5 (20.0)
Musculoskeletal 4 (16.0)
Genito-urinary 2 (8.0)
Respiratory 2 (8.0)
Gastrointestinal 2 (8.0)
Thyroid 2 (8.0)
Cerebral infarction 1 (4.0)
Current medications
Blood pressure 24 (52.2)
Diabetes mellitus 7 (15.2)
Cholesterol 6 (13.0)
Antiarthritic 4 (8.7)
Thyroid 2 (4.4)
Gastrointestinal 2 (4.4)
Prostate 1 (2.2)
1Data presented as mean ±standard deviation or n(%).
3.2. Levels of the Brain Nerve Growth Factors
A gardening activity with low-to-moderate intensity, making an vegetable garden, improved
levels of the brain nerve growth factors BDNF and PDGF, which are related to memory, in senior
individuals who participated in this study (Table 3). There was no significant difference between male
and female participants for the brain nervous growth factors (Table 4).
Table 3.
The effects of a 20-min gardening activity program on brain nerve growth factor levels in
senior individuals (n= 41).
Measurement 1BDNF (ng/mL) PDGF (pg/mL) VEGF (pg/mL)
Mean ±SD
Pre-intervention 53.75 ±21.49 3477.46 ±1171.82 338.69 ±171.64
Post-intervention 58.26 ±23.40 3945.80 ±1372.26 325.83 ±145.98
p20.038 * 0.001 ** 0.126 NS
1
BDNF = brain-derived neurotrophic factor; PDGF = platelet-derived growth factor; VEGF = vascular endothelial
growth factor. 2NS, *, ** nonsignificant or significant at p< 0.05 or < 0.01, respectively.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019,16, 760 5 of 9
Table 4.
The effects of a 20-min gardening activity program on brain nerve factor levels of senior
individuals by gender.
Variable Male (n= 13) Female (n= 28) p1
Mean ±SD
BDNF (ng/ml)
Pre-intervention 58.7 ±20.0 51.5 ±22.1 0.362 NS
Post-intervention 67.2 ±26.1 54.3 ±21.5 0.132 NS
PDGF (pg/mL)
Pre-intervention 3531.2 ±1052.7 3450.6 ±1252.5 0.863 NS
Post-intervention 4464.5 ±1318.8 3686.4 ±1355.7 0.146 NS
VEGF (pg/mL)
Pre-intervention 375.2 ±258.4 322.6 ±119.4 0.405 NS
Post-intervention 364.5 ±207.0 308.8 ±110.6 0.298 NS
1Independent samples t-test was used to compare means at p< 0.05. NS, Nonsignificant at p< 0.05.
4. Discussion
BDNF is a member of the neurotrophin family of factors that supports neural survival, growth
and synaptic plasticity, and is highly concentrated in the hippocampus and cortex [
45
47
]. Although
decreased levels of these factors have been associated with age-related hippocampal dysfunction and
memory impairment, increased BDNF levels resulting from aerobic exercise appears to ameliorate
hippocampal deterioration and improve memory function [
48
,
49
]. Habitual physical activity is
associated with BDNF. In a well-designed randomized controlled trial of 1-year duration of exercise
training involving 120 healthy senior individuals, Erickson et al. reported that aerobic exercise
increased serum BDNF levels and spatial memory [
50
]. Another randomized controlled trial also
demonstrated an increase in resting BDNF levels after 6 months of aerobic exercise, and cognitive
function improved significantly in healthy elderly subjects [
51
]. In this study, the 20-min gardening
activity intervention with low-to-moderate intensity as a physical activity intervention led to increased
BDNF concentration in the blood level of the participants. The increase of this key protein,
BDNF, by gardening activity intervention can promote memory by increasing cell proliferation
and growth, as well as neuronal development and functioning in the hippocampus and cortical
regions [25,26,28,3033].
Additionally, a 5-week moderate-intensity aerobic training program resulted in a significant
increase in resting plasma BDNF concentrations in healthy young men [
52
]. Serum BDNF
concentrations did not significantly change during 10 min of moderate exercise in the warm-up period
in healthy male athletes; however, serum BDNF concentrations significantly increased following a
ramp test to exhaustion. The increases in BDNF were positively related with exercise-induced changes
in anterior hippocampal volume. BDNF is a crucial mediator of exercise-induced neuroplasticity [
48
].
The beneficial effects of exercise on cognitive function were inhibited when blocking the action of
BDNF signaling in the hippocampus [33].
PDGF has been highlighted as a potential new player in neurovascular crosstalk [
53
]. PDGF
has been shown to promote blood vessel growth and neuronal survival [
27
,
29
]. In previous studies
in the field of exercise, expression of the PDGF gene in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells
increased after 30 min of cycling at 80% of peak oxygen uptake in healthy men [
54
]. Serum levels of
PDGF increased significantly from 1700 pg/mL to 4640 pg/mL after an average of 17 min of physical
exercise [
55
]. Accordingly, this study showed similar results to the previous physical exercise studies.
The gardening activity intervention as a physical activity could increase PDGF gene levels, promoting
vessel growth and neuronal survival [27,29].
In contrast, there was no significant improvement of VEGF levels in this study. VEGF is a
hypoxia-inducible protein that promotes the formation and growth of blood vessels, and has also been
associated with improved cognition [
56
,
57
]. VEGF is expressed in multiple cells and tissues, including
smooth and skeletal muscle, endothelial cells, macrophages and glial cells [
29
,
58
].
Voss et al.
reported
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019,16, 760 6 of 9
that increases in VEGF concentration made the brain more resistant to functional and structural
neurodegeneration [
59
]. Serum levels of VEGF increased significantly immediately after an average of
17 min of physical exercise [
54
]. Acute physical exercise increased serum levels of VEGF immediately
after and 2 h post-exercise [
60
]. More studies would be necessary to verify the effects of gardening
on VEGF.
5. Conclusions
Participants in the present study exhibited significantly increased levels of the brain nerve growth
factors BDNF and PDGF by performing 20-min gardening activities with low to moderate intensity.
This study revealed the potential of a short-term gardening activity for memory improvement in senior
individuals and provided scientific evidence of the therapeutic mechanisms of gardening for memory.
Future studies need to measure the changes in brain nerve growth factors in a long-term gardening
activity intervention to verify the effects on memory. A follow-up study would be interesting to
determine the effect continuance time for brain nerve growth factors and memory by gardening
intervention. Moreover, future study needs to verify the therapeutic mechanisms of gardening
intervention for brain nerve growth factors, rather than only focusing on the effects of gardening
intervention as a physical activity. It would be valuable to compare differences among age ranges,
between the sexes, and among subjects with different types of diseases and/or disabilities.
Author Contributions:
S.-A.P. contributed to the experimental design, data acquisition, statistical analysis,
interpretation of results, and manuscript preparation. A-Y.L. contributed to the experimental design, data
acquisition, statistical analysis, and manuscript preparation. H.-G.P. and W.-L.L. contributed to analyze blood
samples and data analysis.
Funding:
This work was performed with the support of “Young Researcher Program (Project title: Determining
the Effects of Horticultural Activity Program as a Physical Activity for Improving Cognitive Function of Elderly.
Project No. NRF-2017R1C1B5076478)”, National Research Foundation of Korea, Republic of Korea.
Acknowledgments: This paper was supported by the KU Research Professor Program of Konkuk University.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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... Six activities within the intervention were completed by the older adults, including cleaning a garden plot, digging, fertilizing, raking, planting/transplanting, and watering. Before and after the activity sessions, blood was drawn two times from each individual in order to assess levels of "brain nerve growth factors, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF)," [10]. The levels of these growth factors were notably increased after the gardening interventions, uncover-ing a possible benefit of gardening and horticultural activities in older adults cognitive functioning [10]. ...
... Before and after the activity sessions, blood was drawn two times from each individual in order to assess levels of "brain nerve growth factors, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF)," [10]. The levels of these growth factors were notably increased after the gardening interventions, uncover-ing a possible benefit of gardening and horticultural activities in older adults cognitive functioning [10]. ...
... The increase of BDNF, which is a key protein, promoted memory cell increase and growth in the hippocampus and cortical. Patients with dementia had increased levels of brain nerve growth by the end of the study [10]. Other factors according to the study, 'Identifying the Satisfaction Derived from Leisure Garden-ing by Older Adults' associated to gardening are it lowered "risk of mortality as it promoted a sense of self-efficacy that helped older adults to reduce the adverse effects of psycho-logical stress" [6]. ...
... For this activation mechanism, moderate-intensity physical activity enhances the cognitive function, one of the main functions of PFC, which, in turn, leads to increased attention and concentration [51,52]. In addition, previous studies reported that moderate-intensity physical activity increases the BDNF level, a neurotrophic factor related to memory, in the hippocampus in terms of cranial nerves [24,53,54]. Park et al. [53] reported that the BDNF levels in 41 elderly adults increased as a result of a 20-min low-to-moderate HA intervention. ...
... In addition, previous studies reported that moderate-intensity physical activity increases the BDNF level, a neurotrophic factor related to memory, in the hippocampus in terms of cranial nerves [24,53,54]. Park et al. [53] reported that the BDNF levels in 41 elderly adults increased as a result of a 20-min low-to-moderate HA intervention. ...
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Since indoor, sedentary lifestyles became prevalent in society, humans have lost a sustainable connection to nature. An intervention utilizing outdoor horticultural activities could address such a challenge, but their beneficial effects on the brain and emotions have not been characterized in a quantitative approach. We aimed to investigate brain activity and emotional changes in adults in their 20s during horticultural activity to confirm feasibility of horticultural activity to improve cognitive and emotional states. Sixty university students participated in 11 outdoor horticultural activities at 2-min intervals. We measured brain waves of participants’ prefrontal cortex using a wireless electroencephalography device while performing horticultural activities. Between activities, we evaluated emotional states of participants using questionnaires. Results showed that each horticultural activity showed promotion of brain activity and emotional changes at varying degrees. The participants during physically intensive horticultural activities—digging, raking, and pruning—showed the highest attention level. For emotional states, the participants showed the highest fatigue, tension, and vigor during digging and raking. Plant-based activities—harvesting and transplanting plants—made participants feel natural and relaxed the most. Therefore, this pilot study confirmed the possibility of horticultural activity as a short-term physical intervention to improve attention levels and emotional stability in adults.
... [8,9] Another study showed the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and platelet derived growth factor were significantly increased after gardening. [39] These studies suggest the potential benefit of distinct activities on cognitive function and memory. Because gardening may increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor and platelet derived growth factor, [39] the incidence rate of dementia may decrease. ...
... [39] These studies suggest the potential benefit of distinct activities on cognitive function and memory. Because gardening may increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor and platelet derived growth factor, [39] the incidence rate of dementia may decrease. ...
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With the advance of medical care, the duration of dependency on nursing care in later life has increased worldwide. There is a question of whether farm work could extend or shorten the dependency duration. We investigated the association between farm work experience and the duration of dependency on nursing support or care in late life. We randomly selected 600 adults aged ≥65 years, who were independent and not hospitalized, as part of the Yamanashi Healthy-Active Life Expectancy cohort and followed them for 13 years. We defined the duration of dependency as the time from reception of long-term care insurance benefits to death, and we adjusted for multiple covariates. We analyzed data from 225 adults (139 men and 86 women) who died during the follow-up period. Ninety four had received long-term care benefits. Mean age was 79.6 years (standard deviation [SD]: 6.3) in individuals with farm work experience and 80.1 years (SD: 7.2) in individuals without farm work experience. The estimated duration of dependency on long-term care was 1.3 years (standard error [SE]: 0.4) in individuals with farm work experience vs 2.1 years (SE: 0.5) in individuals without farm work experience (P = .01). The estimated duration of dependency in individuals with farm work experience and without farm work experience was 0.4 years (SE: 0.5) vs 1.3 years (SE: 0.6) in men respectively (P = .03) and 1.6 years (SE: 0.9) vs 2.4 years (SE: 0.9) in women, respectively (P = .16). The sensitivity analysis yielded an estimated duration of 1.2 years (SE: 0.5) in those with farm work experience and 2.3 years (SE: 0.5) in those without farm work experience (P = .004). Individuals with farm work experience required less long-term care prior to death, suggesting that agricultural and physical activities promote health. Policymakers focusing on preventing the need for nursing care in older populations could consider promoting farming or gardening.
... Cultivating a garden elevates overall health and quality of life, physical strength, fitness and flexibility, and vigour and life satisfaction. Gardening is an activity that promotes cognitive function, generates a sense of happiness and meaningfulness and encourages personal and intra-personal relationships (Wang et al., 2013;Soga et al., 2017b;Eng et al., 2019;Park et al., 2019;Ambrose et al., 2020;Spano et al., 2020;Chalmin-Pui et al., 2021). The implementation of various aspects of gardening has led to the development of therapeutic horticulture and the social prescribing of green activities (Husk et al., 2018;Thompson, 2018;Nicholas et al., 2019;Garside et al., 2020;Howarth et al., 2020). ...
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This article describes the changes taking place in the functions of allotment gardens, their perceived value, reasons for purchasing allotments and subjective (self-reported) assessments of their importance during the pandemic. A questionnaire survey was conducted among 203 owners of allotment gardens located in three highly urbanised cities in the Silesian Voivodeship (Southern Poland). Semi-structured questionnaires and non-standardised questionnaires were used to collect the data. The results demonstrate that the respondents aged above 61 years (38.5%) have observed a generational change in the function of allotments, from cultivating fruits and vegetables to recreational purposes. Regardless of age, the owners of allotment gardens did not notice any technological progress or new crops. The young respondents (21–30 years) treated allotment gardens as an investment (36.7%), while the respondents aged below 20 years and over 61 years declared that the greatest benefits of allotment gardening are improved health and growing one’s own fruits and vegetables. The respondents aged over 41 years (25.9%) also pointed out the importance of growing their own produce. Allotments were especially important during the pandemic as a private space free from COVID-related restrictions. Extended interviews with the respondents revealed that allotment gardening was perceived as a coping strategy for the stress generated during the lockdown. This study showed that allotment gardens are important sites not only for food production but also for maintaining mental health, social capital and environmental engagement.
... In a previous study, horticultural activities have been regarded as low to moderately intense physical activities for elderly (Park et al., 2011). Interventions that involve horticultural activities have been reported to maintain and improve their physical, psychological, social, and cognitive health (Han et al., 2018;Park et al., 2016Park et al., , 2017Park et al., , 2019. For example, horticultural activities could increase the serum tryptophan, kynurenine, and serotonin levels, which are bio-markers for improved cognitive function in elderly people . ...
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... A recent study reported that an experimental group of elderly people who participated in horticultural activities had significantly higher brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels compared to a control group of elderly people who did not receive the horticulture intervention. High levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and platelet-derived growth factor [38,39] result in high levels of anti-inflammatory factors in the blood and enhanced neuroprotective function [40]. Thus, the therapeutic psychological and physiological effects of horticultural activities are empirically well established. ...
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... Horticultural activity is known not only harvesting and incorporating them into life but also on the effect of the physical and psychological function (Gonzalez et al., 2010;Haller et al., 2019;Hansen-Ketchum et al., 2009;Hayashi et al., 2008;Maller et al., 2006;Page, 2008;Rappe, 2005;Sempik et al., 2003;Ulrich et al., 1991;Cimprich, 1993;Cimprich & Ronis, 2003;Kam & Siu, 2010;Kim et al., 2012;Park et al., 2019;Relf & Dorn, 1995;Simon & Straus, 1998). However, the effects of horticultural activity on postpartum women who are susceptible to significant temporary stress have not studied. ...
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This study aimed to identify the exercise intensity associated with four common physical activities for adults (running, skipping rope, walking, and muscle strength exercises) and two horticultural activities (creating a vegetable bed and garden maintenance). For this experiment, 19 males (mean age: 25.8 ± 2.3 years) randomly participated in the activities at a glasshouse at Konkuk University. Each of the six activities lasted for 5 minutes; the subjects rested for 5 minutes during intervals between the activities. A portable metabolic analyzer was used to store the oxygen and energy consumption values obtained upon measurement of each activity. In addition, a wireless heart rate monitor was used to measure the subjects’ heart rate. According to the results, the four types of physical activities and two horticultural activities carried out by the subjects are moderate- to high-intensity activities [i.e., 3.8 ± 0.9 to 9.9 ± 2.1 metabolic equivalents (METs)]. Running (9.9 ± 2.1 METs) and skipping rope (8.8 ± 2.2 METs) were categorized as high-intensity physical activities, whereas creating a vegetable bed (5.0 ± 1.2 METs), walking (4.9 ± 0.8 METs), muscle strength exercises (4.5 ± 1.3 METs), and garden maintenance (3.8 ± 0.9 METs) were classified as moderate-intensity physical activities. The exercise intensities of horticultural activities in this study were similar to those of walking and muscle strength exercises. Therefore, participating in these horticultural activities is expected to garner health benefits similar to those reaped from the physical activities described in the current study.
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Nearly 200 studies have examined the impact that either acute or long-term exercise has upon cognition. Subsets of these studies have been reviewed using the traditional narrative method, and the common conclusion has been that the results are mixed. Therefore, a more comprehensive review is needed that includes all available studies and that provides a more objective and reproducible review process. Thus, a meta-analytic review was conducted that included all relevant studies with sufficient information for the calculation of effect size (W = 134). The overall effect size was 0.25, suggesting that exercise has a small positive effect on cognition. Examination of the moderator variables indicated that characteristics related to the exercise paradigm, the participants, the cognitive tests, and the quality of the study influence effect size. However, the most important finding was that as experimental rigor decreased, effect size increased. Therefore, more studies need to be conducted that emphasize experimental rigor.
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Regular physical activity (PA) can provide many health benefits for older adults. Gardening is often recommended as a form of PA although there is lack of research data to support this recommendation. By determining the exercise intensity of various gardening tasks, physical activity programs using gardening can be developed for improvement and maintenance of physical health. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to show a useful method for measuring exercise intensity of gardening tasks in older adults.