Spades, seeds and soil can be as beneficial to good health as pills and potions, according to a new report on 'Gardens and Health'.
Commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme and produced by The King's Fund, the independent report concludes that gardens can play a powerful role in the care of our minds and bodies and should be used more systematically in our health and social care system.
It calls on health policymakers, the NHS, clinicians and local government to do more to promote the importance of gardens and gardening in improving health outcomes.
According to the report, the health benefits of gardens – including active gardening – are broad and diverse. Not only can they promote good health, they can also help prevent ill health, with potential long-term implications for healthcare costs. Access to gardens and gardening has been linked to:
· reduced depression, loneliness, anxiety and stress
· benefits for various conditions including heart disease, cancer and obesity
· better balance, which can help to prevent falls in older people (a cause of major NHS costs)
· alleviating symptoms of dementia
· improving sense of personal achievement among children.
Nearly 90% of UK households have a garden and half the population are gardeners, but the formal use of gardening as a tool for improving wellbeing remains very limited in England's health and social care system. This is despite promising results from a range of projects and interventions, including gardening in hospices and GPs 'social prescribing' of gardening.
'Gardens and Health' is the main theme at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show, taking place this week, demonstrated in a number of show gardens.
Jane Ellison MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, said: “Gardening improves your mental and physical health – it keeps you active, it can help people with dementia to feel calm and relaxed, and coming together to tend a garden tackles social isolation. This report will be a helpful resource for local areas as they help people to lead healthier lives.”
Mary Berry CBE, President of the National Gardens Scheme, said: “I have long been aware of the therapeutic benefits of gardening and visiting gardens and how being outside in lovely surroundings, in the fresh air, is so good for our wellbeing. If the report helps to emphasise and give greater understanding of these benefits so that they can be put to wider use for people's health, that would be a great achievement.”
• If reduced mobility means you struggle to access part of your garden or outside space due to steps or a steep incline, take a look at Acorn's fully weatherproof Outdoor Stairlift. It works just like our indoor straight stairlift, but is specially adapted for use outdoors.