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Sin-Ae Park, Chorong Song, Ji-Young Choi, Ki-Cheol Son and Yoshifumi Miyazaki

The study’s objective was to investigate the effects of foliage plants on prefrontal cortex activity and subjective assessments of psychological relaxation. In a crossover experimental design, 24 male university students in their 20s observed a container with and without foliage plants for 3 minutes while oxyhemoglobin (oxy-Hb) concentration in the prefrontal cortex was continuously measured with a portable near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy device. Afterward, subjective evaluations of emotions were obtained via two self-report questionnaires: a modified semantic differential (SD) method and the Profile of Mood State questionnaire (POMS). Oxy-Hb concentration in the right prefrontal cortex was significantly lower in subjects who viewed the foliage plants than in those who did not, indicating a physiologically relaxed state. The subjects also reported in the SD method significantly more positive emotions (e.g., comfortable, natural, and relaxed) associated with viewing the foliage plants. In the POMS, a significant positive effect on psychological relaxation when subjects viewed the foliage plants was shown. Thus, we conclude that foliage plants have both physiological and psychological relaxation effects in males even after only short exposure.

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Bo-Young Kim, Sin-Ae Park, Jong-Eun Song and Ki-Cheol Son

This study was conducted to determine the effects of a horticultural therapy (HT) program, based on B.F. Skinner’s behavior modification theory and special education science curriculum for Korean children with intellectual disabilities for the improvement of attention and sociality. Twenty-four participants (10 males, 14 females, in grades 1 to 3) with intellectual disabilities were recruited from a special education class at an elementary school in Seoul, South Korea. Twelve children participated in the HT program after-school for 6 months (Mar. to Aug. 2009, once per week, ≈40 min per session); the control group consisted of the remaining 12 children. Before and after the HT program, Conners’ teacher rating scales—revised and the social skills rating system assessments were conducted by parents/caregivers or teachers for each of the children. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) and chi square tests were used to compare differences between the two groups. Difference in attention was not significant between groups. Children in the HT group had statistically significant higher sociality scores than those in the control group (P < 0.001). In conclusion, the HT program improved the sociality of children with intellectual disabilities. To maximize the therapeutic effects of the HT program for attention, the program should be revised and supplemented based on the results in this study. A larger sample size and factoring in the level of disability and year in school of the participants would increase the precision in assessing therapeutic effects.

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Sin-Ae Park, A-Young Lee, Ki-Cheol Son, Wang-Lok Lee and Dae-Sik Kim

The present study aimed to assess the physical and psychological health benefits of a 15-session gardening intervention in elderly women and to investigate satisfaction of the gardening intervention. Fifty elderly women (age >70 years) at two senior community centers located in Seoul, South Korea, were selected to participate in this study. Twenty-four elderly women at senior community center “A” participated in a twice-weekly gardening intervention (≈50 minutes per session) during the period Sept. to Nov. 2015; 26 elderly women at senior community center “B” comprised a control group. At the completion of the 15-session gardening intervention, physical health parameters such as body composition, physical functional ability, and hand function ability were assessed in both groups. Additionally, psychological health conditions, such as cognitive ability, depression, and sociality, were assessed. The elderly women also answered a questionnaire to assess the amount of physical activity experienced during daily life. Elderly women in the gardening intervention group exhibited significantly improved muscle mass, aerobic endurance, hand dexterity, cognitive ability, and decreased waist circumference (P < 0.05). In contrast, significantly decreased muscle mass and agility and increased depression were observed in the control group (P < 0.05). Moreover, elderly women in the gardening intervention group reported a significantly higher amount of daily physical activity compared with those in the control group (P < 0.05). Additionally, 95.8% of elderly women in the gardening intervention group reported of being very satisfied with the gardening intervention. In conclusion, the gardening intervention maintained and improved the physical and psychological health of elderly women at a senior community center, whereas elderly women in the control group experienced age-related reduced physical and psychological health conditions. More studies are needed to evaluate the effects of a gardening intervention in a larger population of elderly women; in addition, a longer intervention period would provide a better measure of health in elderly women.

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Sin-Ae Park, Sae-Room Oh, Kwan-Suk Lee and Ki-Cheol Son

This study used electromyographic analysis to investigate specific upper limb and hand muscle activation during 15 common horticultural activities. A total of 30 Korean adults between the ages of 20 and 30 years, with an average age of 24.8 years, were recruited from Konkuk University, Seoul, South Korea. Electromyographic measurements were made using a portable four-channel electromyograph. Bipolar surface electromyography (EMG) electrodes were attached to six upper limb muscles (i.e., upper trapezius, triceps—long head, biceps brachialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor carpi radialis, and brachioradialis) and two hand muscles (i.e., thenar eminence and hypothenar eminence) on the dominant hand. These eight muscles that were selected play a major role in the operation of upper limbs and hand muscles for upper body low-impact activities. Each participant did the 15 horticultural activities on one occasion with two separate sessions. Each activity was performed for 60 seconds followed by a 15-second rest period sitting at a table on a height-adjusted chair between each activity. All eight muscles measured were used together during most of 15 horticultural activities. Upper trapezius, thenar eminence, and hypothenar eminence had higher muscle activity than the other muscles. Triceps—long head displayed very low EMG values compared with the other muscles. The EMG data will facilitate developing scientific and research-based gardening intervention and/or horticultural therapy programs for improving physical health and physical rehabilitation.

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Sin-Ae Park, Ho-Sang Lee, Kwan-Suk Lee, Ki-Cheol Son and Candice A. Shoemaker

The metabolic cost of 10 gardening tasks was measured in children to determine the exercise intensities associated with these tasks. Seventeen children [(mean ± sd) aged 12.4 ± 0.7 years and body mass index 21.6 ± 4.0 kg·m−2] participated in this study. The children performed the 10 gardening tasks at a garden previously established in Cheongju, Chungbuk, South Korea. They visited the garden twice and performed five different tasks on each visit. Five minutes were provided to complete each gardening task and a 5-minute rest was allowed between each task. The children wore a portable telemetric calorimeter and a heart rate monitor for measurement of oxygen uptake and heart rate during the gardening tasks. The results show that the 10 gardening tasks represented moderate- to high-intensity physical activity for the children [4.3 ± 0.5 to 6.6 ± 1.6 metabolic equivalents (MET)]. Digging (6.6 ± 1.6 MET) and raking (6.2 ± 1.5 MET) were high-intensity physical activities, and digging was more intense than the other gardening tasks performed in this study (P < 0.05). Tasks such as weeding (5.8 ± 1.1 MET), mulching (5.5 ± 1.3 MET), hoeing (5.3 ± 0.7 MET), sowing seeds (5.0 ± 1.1 MET), harvesting (4.8 ± 0.6 MET), watering (4.6 ± 1.1 MET), mixing growing medium (4.4 ± 0.6 MET), and planting transplants (4.3 ± 0.5 MET) were moderate-intensity physical activities. The MET data for the gardening tasks will facilitate the development of garden-based exercise interventions for children, which can promote health and physically active lifestyle.

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Sin-Ae Park, A-Young Lee, Hee-Geun Park, Ki-Cheol Son, Dae-Sik Kim and Wang-Lok Lee

The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of a gardening intervention as a physical activity in women aged over 70 years. Twenty-one women aged over 70 years were recruited from the community in Seoul, South Korea. Eleven subjects at a senior community center participated in a 15-session gardening program (twice a week, average 50 minutes per session) from Sept. to Nov. 2015. The rest of the subjects who were recruited from another senior community center acted as the control group. Blood lipid profiles, blood pressure, inflammation in peripheral-blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), and oxidative stress were assessed by a blood test before and after the 15-session gardening intervention. The results showed that the subjects in the gardening intervention as a low- to moderate-physical activity had a significant improvement in their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and the variables related to immunity such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) for inflammation in blood and receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) expression for oxidative stress. The results of this study suggested that the 15-session gardening intervention as a low- to moderate-physical activity led to positive effects on the blood lipid profiles, blood pressure, level of inflammatory markers in blood, and oxidative stress of women aged over 70 years.

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Sin-Ae Park, Moon-Kyoung Cho, Mung Hwa Yoo, Soo-Yun Kim, Eun-Ae Im, Jong-Eun Song, Jin-Cheol Lee and In Gun Jun

The objectives of this study were to examine the effects of a horticultural activity program on the emotional intelligence, prosocial behavior, and scientific investigation abilities and attitudes of kindergarteners. A total of 336 children aged 5 to 7 years in public and private kindergartens and day care centers in Incheon, South Korea, participated in a 24-session horticultural activity program. This program included indoor and outdoor activities such as planting seeds, transplanting plants, making and applying eco-friendly fertilizer, watering, harvesting, using plants to make crafts, and cooking with produce. It was designed to improve the emotional intelligence, prosocial behavior, and scientific investigation abilities and attitudes of kindergarteners. Each session lasted an average of 50 minutes and was held once per week. The results of the study showed that the 24-session horticultural activity program improved the emotional intelligence, prosocial behavior, and scientific investigation abilities and attitudes of the children (P < 0.05). Satisfaction with the program was very high among both the children and their teachers and parents. Future studies should consider exploring the effects of horticultural activity programs on children in different age groups.