Gardening Should be Recommended by Doctors as Therapeutic Activity

A novel new report suggests that gardening should be recommended by doctors in order to ward off the early signs of serious diseases such as dementia and heart disease.

The King’s Fund think-tank suggests that the NHS should capitalise on what it describes as “Britain’s love affair with gardening”, in order to tackle some of the most debilitating conditions known to the human race.

In accordance with this, it is also suggested that gardens and outside spaces can aid with the maintenance of circadian rhythms.

“Gardens are an extraordinary national resource. Nearly 90 per cent of UK households have a garden and half the population are gardeners. But we could do much more to nurture and maximise the contribution gardens make to enhancing health,” the report suggests.

In preparing the report, the authors site numerous studies that indicate gardening confers several health benefits on those who participate in this relatively sedate activity.

Regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity and can also improve balance, helping to prevent falls in older people.

Other studies claim that it can reduce depression, loneliness, anxiety and stress, while simply the reality of getting out and about in the fresh air has numerous physical and psychological benefits.

A recent trial indicated that six months of gardening significantly slowed cognitive decline among a trial of numerous dementia patients.

It is important to note that the report was commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme, which does somewhat impact upon its neutrality, but the conclusions of the study are nonetheless logical, and the organisation involved is hardly a massive capitalistic concern.

Indeed, the National Gardens scheme commented on the issue, suggesting that gardening can be hugely beneficial for people of advancing years in particular.

“Gardens appeal to the senses – particularly touch and smell – which are important for people with dementia. Gardens and outside spaces also give people living with dementia access to natural light, which is important for the maintenance of circadian rhythms.”

The Royal Horticultural Society calculates that half an hour of digging burns 150 calories, raking a lawn burns 120 and pushing a lawn mower burns 165.

Of course, these are relatively paltry figures, and certainly not something that would protect against obesity in and of itself, but it does show that gardening can contribute to overall health.

Report author David Buck, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, backed the research on gardening, and suggested that academic studies already support the ideas of the King’s Fund.

“A wealth of evidence links gardens and gardening with a wide range of health outcomes. We need to build on this and get it translated into policy and practice.”

Research by the Universities of Westminster and Essex suggested that just 30 minutes a week spent tending to an allotment can boost feelings of both self-esteem and mood by dissolving tension, depression, anger, and confusion.

This is something for NHS physicians to bear in mind when dealing with patients struggling with psychological disorders in particular.


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