Horticultural engagement is effective for stress & mental fatigue recovery in children

Conducted by researchers in China, research into the stress recovery benefits for children participating in horticultural activities demonstrated greatly reduced physiological fatigue.

Flower arranging

Research has established the benefits of horticultural therapy for health and well-being but limited studies have yet been conducted on the distinctions between different types of horticultural activities in terms of stress reduction.

The results from this study suggest that horticultural activities that involve real, vibrant plants and/or natural materials have more stress-relieving benefits. The researchers concluded that horticultural activities are a beneficial leisure activities that aid in stress relief for children and the importance of considering the attributes of activities when developing horticultural programs for elementary students.

The experiment was conducted amongst 48 children aged 9-12, in a children’s activity centre’s multi-purpose classroom. The subjects were assessed for stress levels prior to the experiment, after which they engaged in horticultural activities for 20 min. The horticulture activities included; flower arranging; sowing and transplanting seeds; kokedama crafting; pressed flower card making and decorative bottle painting with dried flowers. The control, reference activity involved short composition writing. The physiological stress was assessed using electrocardiograms and electroencephalograms as feedback indicators. Psychological and emotional changes were determined using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule for Children and Self-Assessment Manikin scales.

The results demonstrated that horticultural activities greatly reduced physiological fatigue, and their recovery benefits were significantly greater than those of the reference activity. The recovery effects from different horticultural activities were similar across physiological indicators, although flower arrangement and sowing and transplanting seeds exhibited relatively robust recovery benefits. The heart rate and α-EEG-based generalized estimating equation revealed that horticultural activities offered significantly better relative recovery at each time phase of operation than the reference activity, with girls showing a 3.68% higher relative recovery value than boys. Flower arrangement and kokedama crafting offered better physiological recovery for students with prior horticultural experience, and these two activities received the highest scores in terms of positive effects and the ‘pleasure’ dimension. Students believed that participating in horticultural activities resulted in a noteworthy increase in personal confidence and a greater sense of achievement.

The research was conducted by researchers from the College of Landscape Architecture and Art, Northwest A&F University, Xianyang and the School of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Xi’an University, Xi’an, Shaanxi in China.