Just What the Doctor Ordered: The Health Benefits of Gardening
A new report by the King’s Fund has outlined the benefits of gardening for reducing social isolation and managing mental health issues, as well as part of treatment for conditions like dementia and cancer.
The latest plan, backed by public health minister, Jane Ellison, will see GPs and other medical professionals advising their patients to spend longer periods of time outside.
Some areas are already investing in schemes which take a social health care approach and have seen a positive outcome, including fewer GP and A&E visits, improved sleep and enhanced wellbeing among patients. By focusing on both mental and physical health and initiating schemes such as the gardening project, it is possible to reduce social isolation and strengthen community bonds. The knock-on effect is better management of the increasing demands upon the NHS and in particular, on the limited time and resources of GPs.
One such scheme, based in Lambeth, London, has seen doctors, nurses, patients and local residents set up a food growing network. The gardens have been created in a variety of sites, including 11 GP surgeries and at King’s College Hospital. Here patients are taught how to grow food. The harvest is then sold to the hospital and used to create in-patient meals. Spinal injury patients at Salisbury hospital are also benefitting from a similar scheme, set up by national charity, Horatio’s Garden.
Gardening For All
Gardening itself is a fantastic way for people to stay active and spend time outdoors. For example, using hand propelled petrol lawn mowers like those available from sites like http://www.chiffchaffoutdoor.com/tiger-tm4016hp-40cm-16-hand-propelled-petrol-lawn-mower.html or digging is a great workout for the heart and for strengthen muscles.
One study found that dementia patients who did not have the opportunity to visit outside spaces exhibited a sevenfold increase in violent behaviours. In comparison, those who were able to take advantage of garden sites saw a reduction in violent tendencies by almost twenty per cent. Other research suggests that simply having access to outside spaces can change the way visitors, staff and patients interact. Gardens can reduce levels of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as play an important role in reconnecting individuals to their former interests and hobbies. The benefits on heart health, balance, obesity and many other conditions are also well documented.