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Gardening has “same positive impact” on mental health as running or cycling, study reveals

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Gardening may help decrease stress and reduce the risk of developing a mental health disorder, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, is the first of its kind to examine how gardening can help reduce the symptoms of stress and poor mental health.

According to the paper, people who took part in gardening sessions “two to three times a week” reported better wellbeing and lower stress scores compared to those who rarely gardened.

Likewise, people who garden every day reported wellbeing scores 6.6 per cent higher and stress levels 4.2 per cent lower than those who did not garden at all.

It means that gardening every day has the same positive impact on wellbeing as “regular, vigorous exercising” – such as running and cycling.

The survey also found that a third of gardeners take part in gardening for the health benefits, while six in 10 take part because of the enjoyment they get out of the activity. A further 15 per cent said gardening helps them feel “calm and relaxed”, while others said gardening eased depression, boosted energy levels, and reduced stress.

Commenting on the study, lead author Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui said it was the first time the “dose response” to gardening has been tested to a scientific degree.

“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the more frequently you garden – the greater the health benefits,” she said.

“When gardening, our brains are pleasantly distracted by nature around us.

“This shifts our focus away from ourselves and our stresses, thereby restoring our minds and reducing negative feelings.”

Co-author Dr Chalmin-Pui added: “Most people say they garden for pleasure and enjoyment so the likelihood of getting hooked to gardening is also high and the good news is that from a mental health perspective – you can’t ‘overdose’ on gardening.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.