Recently, a British doctor has suggested that horticulture and therapeutic gardening should be available on the NHS. Reports over the past few years have suggested that doctors should prescribe gardening on the NHS. It’s suggested as a way to prevent as well as treat physical and mental health problems; it can help with insomnia and high blood pressure.
Gardening is great exercise – considered as ‘moderate to high’ intensity. The RHS has calculated that just half an hour of gardening burns an average of 150 calories. Kansas State University found that it has comparable health benefits to jogging or swimming. Plus, people were more likely to stick with it because it felt less like ‘exercise’ and more like fun.
Benefits include weight management, lower blood pressure, stress relief, and stronger immune systems. Older people can gain increased mobility and flexibility,
As well as working for your food, growing your own helps you get your five a day. It also means you get to choose what kind of fertilisers and pesticides come into contact with your food, and when to harvest. This means fresh, nutrient rich tomatoes straight from the plant, and courgettes at just the right level of juiciness. (Tomatoes and courgettes are among the easiest plants to grow and considered a great starting point for new growers). Eating from your own garden will also encourage you to eat seasonally; meaning your fruit and veg will be at it’s most nutritious and delicious.
King’s College Hospital have collaborated with Lambeth GP Food Co-op (a co-op of residents, medical professionals and patients) to create food growing gardens. Patients are taught how to cultivate fruits and vegetables, which are then sold to support the initiative and the NHS. Gardening can help improve mental health, for individuals who feel blue or people in ‘therapeutic’ settings such hospitals. The exercise, social interaction and sunshine can really help boost a person’s mood.
The King’s Fund has found that gardening can reduce isolation and help lower the risk of dementia. Studies have found that older people who gardened regularly had an up to 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners.
The benefit is thought to come from a combination of exercise, anxiety reduction and improved motor skills. There is also evidence that garden environments stimulate the senses and improve awareness of surroundings.
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