Healthier lifestyle for cancer patients with gardening

June 4, 2009 Phyllis Holder plants flowers in her "new beginnings" garden at her home in Wauwatosa.

Cancer is one of the diseases with fewer chances of a possible cure for most of the cancer-varieties. It has been estimated that about 15 million people all over the U.S. are cancer survivors. A recent study by researchers has led to the belief that gardening might have some benefit over the health of cancer patients. Gardening for three seasons with homegrown vegetables helps increase the overall physical activity. It also provides fresh vegetables and fruits as a part of your daily food consumption. Moreover, gardening is known to increase the self-worth feeling.

The researchers noted that during the study, the healthy eating and living behavior adopted by the gardening section of the patients helped them gain less weight as compared to the group that did not participate in the same.

From all the cancer survivors in the U.S., about two-thirds of the people are over the age of 60 years as noted in the Journal named Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The lead author of the study, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, who is also chair of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, explained that the people who are currently surviving through cancer a healthy lifestyle is an essential requirement which helps them get healthy. This is especially applicable to the ones who have attained an old age.

He further added that doctors can guide the patients to go to the gym or provide them healthy diet related counseling but the same isn’t meaningful as these habits don’t stay for a long term. Gardening is a rather fruitful and rewarding activity that increases physical work while keeping it beautiful and satisfactory for inner peace.

The study on the patients done by Dr. Demark-Wahnefried along with his colleagues, involved the 42 cancer affected survivors. Half of the patients were assigned to a long-term gardening assignment while the other half was put on a waiting list for the same. The participants for the program were 60 or older. All of the participants were from Alabama who was diagnosed with cancer that belonged to the early or mid-stage with survival rates that were pretty high. These cancer types included breast cancer, Localised bladder cancer, thyroid cancer or prostate cancer.

The participants were helped by a master gardener who brought three seasons worth garden supplies to each patient home while teaching them the skills to bring up a beautiful home with thriving vegetation. The experiment was planned for three growing seasons of the plants and vegetables.

After an analysis of the patient ‘s diet, strength, balance and blood test, both at the beginning as well as the end of the study, it was concluded that each participant from the gardening half consumed at least one fruit on a daily basis which added to their healthy diet.

The gardeners also gained less fat around the belly that was just 2.3cm as compared to the 8cm on the control group. Blood tests revealed that the gardeners also showed a lower level of stress as compared to the ones that didn’t participate in gardening. More than 70 percent of the gardeners said they had an excellent experience and many were willing to continue it. Gardening has been known to portray a better lifestyle which leads to healthy habits and thereby increasing life-expectancy for cancer survivors.

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