Finding time for nature through gardening can be helpful as it promotes positive body image, say researchers led by a scientist of Indian-origin.
Previous research has shown that gardening is associated with improved psychological well-being and physical health.
Published in the journal Ecopsychology, the study involved 84 gardeners from 12 urban allotment sites in north London and discovered that the longer period of time the participants spent gardening, the larger the improvement in positive body image when they left their allotment.
An allotment garden is a plot of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening or growing food plants.
"Positive body image is beneficial because it helps to foster psychological and physical resilience, which contributes to overall well-being," said study author Viren Swami, Professor at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK.
"My previous research has shown the benefits of being in nature more generally, but increasing urbanisation has meant that many people now have less access to nature," Swami added.
The researchers found that the gardeners had significantly higher levels of body appreciation, significantly higher levels of body pride, and significantly higher levels of appreciation for their body's functionality, compared to a group of 81 non-gardeners, recruited from the same area of London.
This new study adds to previous work by Professor Swami demonstrating that exposure to natural environments helps to promote positive body image.
"The findings are important because they specifically show the significant benefits of spending time on allotments, which are typically quite small patches of green space in otherwise mainly urban environments," Swami said.
Ensuring that opportunities for gardening are available to all people is, therefore, vital and may help to reduce the long-term cost burden on health services.
"One way to achieve this, beyond policies that ensure access to nature for all citizens, would be through the provision of dedicated and sustained community allotment plots," the authors wrote.
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