New UK research has found that individuals who enjoy gardening as a hobby may benefit from improved body image.
Led by Anglia Ruskin University, the new study looked at 84 gardeners from 12 urban allotment sites in north London, and 81 non-gardeners from the same area.
The participants were asked to complete a series of questionnaires to assess their body image, which is measured by a person’s appreciation of their own body and its functions, and their acceptance of any imperfections, before and after spending time in their allotment.
The findings showed that the gardeners had significantly higher levels of body pride, body appreciation and appreciation for their body’s functionality, compared to the non-gardeners.
In addition, the more time the gardeners spent gardening in their allotment, the bigger the improvement in positive body image when they left.
The researchers point out that allotment gardening, which is where gardeners rent a small plot of land in a public space, has already been shown to boost both physical and mental health.
Although the effect of allotment gardening on body image has not been investigated before, lead author Professor Viren Swami noted that the findings are in line with his previous research, which has found that spending time in natural environments can improve positive body image.
“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,” said Swami.
“The findings from this new study 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.
“Positive body image is beneficial because it helps to foster psychological and physical resilience, which contributes to overall well-being.
“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.”