We all know that getting outside into the fresh air is good for you, and therefore gardening must be too, but most of us would also probably be quite surprised to hear about GPs prescribing green fingers to patients. Nevertheless, doctors in New Zealand have been experimenting with this course of action, and now 80% of all professionals seem pretty convinced. Telling people to go outside and do something, for example gardening, has enormous benefits to a population's overall health. Currently in the UK, 44% of people admit to taking absolutely no exercise whatsoever. When you consider how important activity is for everything from skin conditions through to keeping a healthy heart, this is pretty worrying. Not least given the obesity epidemic that the nation is currently facing. From those Down Under that had been advised to take up gardening and walking, 72% noticed a positive change to their health, 67% had improved their diet, and more than 50% claimed to feel stronger and in much better shape. Those readers who do take exercise and eat well will no doubt be staring at that last sentence aghast at the fact some others may not realise the extent to which being active benefits our entire bodies, but the simple truth is that's the reality.
The results have spurred Counciller Izzi Seccombe, who looks after health at the UK Local Government Association, to call for a move that some Brits might see as relatively radical- prescribe exercise on the NHS. By doing this, she believes, people would be encouraged to get active, in turn potentially helping to buck the trends in diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Currently, government guidelines advise at least 150minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, many people are falling short even if they do some form of activity. An easy form of moderate exercise if simply tending to the garden, with many tasks gently toning up muscles, helping us stretch out, and limber up. And this can just be a stepping-stone, too- the more active we are, the more active we will become, with looser joints easing mobility for sport and other pastimes. Meanwhile, those looking to shed some fat might be interested to learn that digging and shovelling is thought to burn 250 calories, lawn mowing 195, weeding 105, and raking 100. Not bad considering these are all tasks we probably needed to do anyway.