GPs devise new treatment to beat depression. It's called gardening

The ‘green gym’ provides exercise, therapeutic relaxation ... and it’s dirt cheap, says top medic

Doctors are to swap pills for the potting shed under plans to prescribe gardening on the NHS as a way to help patients beat depression.

Time spent planting, pruning and propagating can be more powerful than a dose of expensive drugs, according to Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians.

He claims the Government's health reforms will give GPs more choice in how to treat patients, and allow them the freedom to embrace the physical and mental health benefits of horticulture.

"Drug therapy can be really expensive, but gardening costs little and anyone can do it," said Sir Richard, who is a patron of Thrive, a national charity that provides gardening therapy.

The idea is the latest in a long line of offbeat ideas aimed at improving the nation's health, from dance lessons that can combat obesity to sending depressed people on camping trips. Under the coalition's health reforms, clinical groups led by GPs will commission services and Sir Richard, who spoke out in favour of the changes, believes patients could benefit more from gardening classes than extra medication.

"I have, for some time, thought doctors should prescribe a course of gardening for people who come to them with depression or stroke," Sir Richard said. "The new commissioning structures about to be introduced might allow more innovative treatment approaches to be put in place, including the opportunity to try gardening rather than prescribe expensive drugs."

Too often, appointments are rushed and doctors are unable to spend time talking to their patients. "There are definite benefits to longer consultations – I would much rather a doctor had time to listen to patients and, instead of prescribing anti-depressants, prescribe a course of gardening."

Half an hour spent working in the garden can burn off some 200 calories, according to a study published last year. Sir Richard added: "I always wonder why people go to the gym when there is a 'green gym' outdoors for us all – and, what's more, it's free. Gardening burns off calories; makes joints supple and is fantastic exercise. It is a physical activity that has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of anxiety, depression and dementia."

Ian Rickman, who suffered a stroke at the age of 40 which left him paralysed down one side, has since been helped by Thrive.

He said: "At first, I burst into tears a lot. I couldn't see a way I would ever be able to live my life again, to walk out into a garden, let alone work in a garden. Therapy through gardening is a powerful tool – it helped me come to terms with my stroke, and it helped me learn how to live again."

The idea of gardening as a therapy is gaining high-profile backing from other quarters. The TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh has hailed horticulture for being "great as a therapy" that can "make a real difference to disabled people's lives". And the Health minister Paul Burstow added: "There is plenty of evidence to show the benefits of exercise on people's health and well-being. I'm sure gardening brings those benefits."

Just the job: How you can enjoy the health benefits of gardening this weekend:

Seedy business Sow vegetable seeds such as carrots, turnips, radishes, rocket and lettuce outside, and try some herbs in pots or trays.

First cut Take advantage of the warm weather to fire up the mower for the first time. It will help create a denser carpet for the summer.

Dead ends Finish pruning any roses, and remove dead leaves and old stalks from perennials. Cut back ivy.

Carry the can Consider buying a water butt: it may be a long dry year.

Water works Clear ponds and reinstall pumps and lights.

Heatwave Enjoy the sun!

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

    £24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

    Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

    £18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain