Now a small but encouraging study says gardening may help give those who have or had cancer a lift in how they view themselves.
In the U.S., there are close to 15 million cancer survivors currently, with two-thirds over the age of 60. While survival rates are encouraging, medical experts say quality of life and a lifting of depression and anxiety following serious illness are key to getting one's life back on track.
“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,” Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, chair of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, pointed out.
In Denmark-Wahnefried's paper published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Alabama (Birmingham) researchers found that of 42 cancer survivors, those who gardened for one year lost weight, ate more vegetables and more surprisingly, reported feelings of "greater self-worth."
The study was meant to show whether gardening could help with weight control, but the positive self-effects of gardening were apparent and measurable, the researchers noted.
The research, considered preliminary by its organizers, seems encouraging for not only impacting physical health but for creating changes long-term.
“We can send people to the gym, but that isn’t meaningful, and we can counsel them to eat better, but we want it to be more rewarding, and we want it to be long-term,” Demark-Wahnefried told news sources. “With gardening, we’ve hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
About 1.6 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S.
While the figure seems daunting, research races to close the gap and ensure not only higher surivival rates, but a better quality of life during and after treatment.
Prognosis - the expected outcome of the disease - varies among different forms of cancer, different age groups and genders, and the individual's overall health before the cancer diagnosis.
However, experts say the survival rate of individuals with cancer is overall going up as new advances are being made on the heels of extensive research.
Ask your doctor about treatment, both physical and psychological, if you have been diagnosed with cancer.
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