Gardening not only helps older adults stay in shape, but it also makes their hands strong and nimble, according to a new study.
What's more, the 'green' activity boosts their self-esteem.
In an earlier study, researchers at Kansas State University have shown that gardening can offer enough moderate physical activity to keep older adults in shape.
In the latest study it was discovered that among the other health benefits of gardening is keeping older hands strong and lively.
"One of the things we found is that older adults who are gardeners have better hand strength and pinch force, which is a big concern as you age," said Candice Shoemaker, K-State professor of horticulture.
The new study comes in line with an older study that assessed 15 areas of health in older adults, from both those who garden and those who don't.
The researchers looked at measurements like bone mineral density, sleep quality, physical fitness, hand strength and psychological well-being.
"We found that with gardening tasks older adults can, among other things, improve their hand strength and self-esteem at the same time," said Sin-Ae Park, co-author of the study.
Although Shoemaker said that differences between gardeners and non-gardeners showed up in a few health assessments like hand strength, overall physical health and self esteem, results from some of the other areas were more ambiguous.
"If we had a larger sample I think we would see more health differences between those who garden and those who don't, including in areas like sleep quality and life satisfaction," she said.
The researchers are now analyzing data from an eight-week horticulture therapy program that targeted hand strength in stroke patients.
They did tasks like mixing soil and filling pots. They had to use their hands all of the time, so that was good exercise -- and they really enjoyed it," said Park.
The study will be published in the latest issue of the journal HortScience.