Cancer survivors who fear of going back to arduous treatments may find solace in getting their hands dirty. A new study suggests that three seasons of vegetable gardening may increase their chances of a successful remission.
Cancer in all its forms is a death sentence for many people worldwide, however, there are individuals who managed to beat the disease. In the US alone there are approximately 15 million people who are cancer survivors, out of which two-thirds are over the age of 60.
„For cancer survivors, especially those who are older, we look for lifestyle changes that can help them get healthier but are also holistic and have meaning,” said Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, lead author of the study and chair of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Researchers revealed that gardening helps increase the overall physical activity of cancer patients which is beneficial to staving of the disease. In addition to sustaining a healthy diet through fresh vegetables and fruits, gardening can also provide a feeling of self-worth.
For the study, Dr. Demark-Wahnefried and her team split 42 cancer survivors into two random groups. One group had to undertake a gardening programme with cooperative extension master gardeners for a year while the other group was put on a waiting list for the programme.
The people in the study were 60 or older Alabama residents, who had been diagnosed with early and mid-stage cancers that are known for high survival rates. These cancers include bladder, breast, prostate, and thyroid cancers.
The group which was enrolled in the gardening programme had to learn to establish three seasonal vegetable gardens over the course of the study. This involved master gardeners bringing raised growing beds as well as plants, seeds and other gardening supplies to each person’s home.
After the experiment, the researchers looked at the participant’s diets and performed blood tests as well as strength and balance tests. The study revealed that the cancer survivors who dabbled in gardening were eating one more fruit or vegetable serving per day than the other group.
More so, the blood results for the gardening groups showed lower stress markers, something that was confirmed by the participants when they said that they felt a feeling of „worth” when gardening. The group on the waitlist were reported to have a decline in this category.
The one-year follow-up saw 91 percent of the gardening group still planting fruits and vegetables with 70 percent saying that their experience was „excellent” and 85 percent saying they would do the programme again.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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