It’s National Gardening Week so I thought I would look at some of the health benefits of gardening. First of all, there is the exercise element. Research has shown that 30 minutes of gardening burns a comparable number of calories to playing badminton or volleyball, or practising yoga. Being a physical activity, gardening lowers your risk of heart disease or stroke. The movements involved in gardening such as bending, twisting, pushing and pulling strengthen various muscles such as abdominal, leg, arm feet and hand muscles. Did you know gardening can improve your immune system? Soil bacteria have an effect on the digestive system, increasing the populations of beneficial bacteria in our guts, which in turn benefits the immune system. More exposure to soil bacteria means gardeners have a stronger immune system. Gardening has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. In general, people who garden regularly have higher wellbeing scores and lower stress levels than people who never garden. Gardeners have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to improved sleep patterns, relaxation and mental health. There is research to show that living near green spaces improves health. Personally I find it really uplifting to open my bedroom curtains and look out on my garden every morning, seeing what’s growing, what’s in bloom, and what’s coming along and will flower soon. Many of patients have gardens and I encourage them to get out in their gardens regularly. Some patients are prescribed getting out there every day, no matter what the weather, even if it is only to accompany the dog answering the call of nature and spending those few minutes paying attention to what is in their garden. Whether you have a large or small garden, or none at all you can enjoy the benefits of gardening. If you have no garden, you could try growing some plants in a window box - perhaps try some herbs like thyme and oregano, or you could grow some houseplants. You won’t get as much exercise with some pots on the windowsill but you can still enjoy the benefits of living plants in your environment.