There is increasing evidence that exposure to plants and green space, and particularly to gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health, and so could reduce the pressure on health services. It combines physical activity with social interaction and exposure to nature and sunlight.
Sunlight lowers blood pressure as well as increasing vitamin D levels in the summer, and the fruit and vegetables that are produced have a positive impact on the diet.
Working in the garden restores dexterity and strength, and the aerobic exercise that is involved can easily use the same number of calories as might be expended in a gym.
Digging, raking, and mowing are particularly calorie intense; there is a gym outside many a window.
The social interaction provided by communal and therapeutic garden projects for those with learning disabilities and poor mental health can counteract social isolation.
The social benefits of such projects can delay the symptoms of dementia (an effect that might be partly due to the beneficial effects of exercise).
Patients who are recovering from conditions, including stroke find that exercise in a garden is more effective, enjoyable, and sustainable than therapy in formal exercise settings.
Gardening can even lead to employment.