Author: Hawkins, J.L., Mercer, J., Thirlaway, K.J., Backx, K., Milbourne, P. & Clayton, D., Cardiff Metropolitan University

Day One – Tuesday 25th June

Strand – Health & Well Being

Session Three: 4.30pm – 6pm

There is a growing interest in the benefits of physical activity conducted in a natural environment (i.e. ‘green exercise’) for enhancing individuals’ psychological and physical health. Gardening represents a form of green exercise that offers active involvement with nature, particularly when growing produce for personal consumption such as in allotment gardening. In Wales there is a high demand for allotment plots and a growing number of community garden projects which are supported by the Welsh Government-funded Tyfu Pobl programme. However, robust evidence demonstrating how and why gardening may be beneficial to health and well-being is limited. The Growing a Healthy Older Population in Wales (GHOP) project was funded by the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research to further an understanding of the benefits of gardening activity specifically for healthy ageing.

The project aims to evaluate the potential benefits of allotment and community gardening for healthy ageing, and to develop a methodology for this. The study design was informed by literature review and participatory research approaches (including stakeholder meetings and field visits). We measured various aspects of physical and psychological health and well-being over a 4-month period using quantitative and qualitative methods. New and existing gardeners were recruited to the study from allotment sites and community garden projects across South Wales. A wait-list control was also recruited from allotment waiting-lists.

The paper highlights the main results of the project, the benefits and challenges of conducting the research, and the use of search conference techniques and stakeholder involvement for study design.

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