Health benefits of gardening activity advocated by top medical expert

Royal College of Physicians president Sir Richard Thompson has highlighted the importance of exercise in health and well-being gained through gardening, rather than simply focusing on people's weight.

Thrive patron Thompson, speaking at the recent Green Care, White Care, Gardening & Growing for Health seminar, said: "Gardening can be quite considerable exercise and I always say there is a free gym outside your window."

He praised Thrive's new INSIGHT database, a tool that records behavioural scores, enabling Thrive to analyse its data. The charity is able to measure the effectiveness of its social and therapeutic horticulture (STH) programmes for disabled people, providing an indicator of quality and effectiveness against other groups.

Dr Joe Sempik, a research fellow at the University of Nottingham's School of Sociology & Social Policy, highlighted the diversity in the application of STH activity.

He said working on a garden project, in allotments, growing food and conservation work all form part of STH, which became evident in Thrive's recent Growing 4 Life project.

Supported by Mind's lottery-funded Ecominds scheme, Growing 4 Life aimed to create community gardening projects for people with mental-health needs.

Evaluating the project, Dr Sempik said there is clear evidence that a guided approach is needed, with clients responding well from direction and support from the project officer.

The INSIGHT data results also showed a clear peak in motivation at six months to a year. Positive effects can even be seen after just three months, added.

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