Gardening can improve wellbeing and have the same positive impact as vigorous exercise like cycling or running, new research suggests.
People who garden every day have wellbeing scores 6.6% higher and stress levels 4.2% lower than those who do not garden at all, a new study shows.
Gardening just two to three times a week also leads to better well-being and lower stress levels, according to the paper.
Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) wellbeing fellow and lead author Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui said: "This is the first time the ‘dose response’ to gardening has been tested and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the more frequently you garden – the greater the health benefits.
"In fact gardening every day has the same positive impact on wellbeing than undertaking regular, vigorous exercise like cycling or running.
"When gardening, our brains are pleasantly distracted by nature around us."
She added: "This shifts our focus away from ourselves and our stresses, thereby restoring our minds and reducing negative feelings."
According to the study published in the journal Cities, regular gardening – at least two to three times a week – corresponded with greatest perceived health benefits.
The prospect of improving health was not the prime motivator to garden – but rather the direct pleasure gardening brought to the participants of the study.
Conducted by the RHS in collaboration with the University of Sheffield and the University of Virginia, the study also found that gardening was linked with greater physical activity, supporting the idea that gardening is good for both body and mind.
Dr Chalmin-Pui added: "Gardening is like effortless exercise because it doesn’t feel as strenuous as going to the gym, for example, but we can expend similar amounts of energy.
"Most people say they garden for pleasure and enjoyment so the likelihood of getting hooked to gardening is also high and the good news is that from a mental health perspective – you can’t ‘overdose’ on gardening.
"We hope all the millions of new gardeners will be getting their daily doses of gardening this week and feeling all the better for it."
The research also looked into why residents engaged in gardening – with 5,766 gardeners and 249 non-gardeners responding to a survey distributed electronically within the UK.
It revealed that six in 10 people garden because of the pleasure and enjoyment they get from it.Just under 30% said they garden for the health benefits, while one in five said wellbeing is the reason they garden.
And around 15% of gardeners said it makes them feel calm and relaxed.
The outdoor hobby has also been shown to boost mental health, with those with health problems stating that gardening eased episodes of depression (13%), boosted energy levels (12%) and reduced stress (16%).
The research is released at the start of National Gardening Week, and the RHS is calling on the nation to get their daily dose of "Vitamin G".