Gardening great for body & mind

Undated Handout Photo of Gardeners' World presenter Mark Lane. See PA Feature GARDENING Health. Picture credit should read: Mark Lane/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Health.

GARDEN designer Mark Lane's life changed course 15 years ago, when a car crash left him needing to use a wheelchair.

He had to come to terms with his disability, tackle severe depression and overcome chronic pain and fatigue. Lane had previously had high-flying roles in publishing, but decided to change careers – and his passion for plants and the outdoors led him to study garden and landscape design, based at home.

Today, he runs his own garden design and landscape practice, has a thriving career as a presenter on Gardener's World, is an ambassador for various disability charities with a slant on gardening.

"As a garden designer, and as someone who uses a wheelchair all the time, I know first-hand how gardening has improved my physical health and my mental wellbeing," says Lane.

"I am a strong advocate for the importance that gardening plays on our busy everyday lives and wellbeing."

Here, Lane reveals some of the wellbeing benefits of gardening.

:: It's great for mindfulness

"When in a garden or gardening, we are encouraged to live in the moment, be more mindful of ourselves and our surroundings. Our breathing slows down (unless we are digging), our shoulders drop, and in no time at all the activity of gardening has been used as a stress reliever and stress releaser," says Lane.

:: Gardening helps you keep fit

"Gardening is a great way to keep fit, using muscles in our hands, arms, back, stomach and legs, without even knowing that we are doing it – better than going to the gym, in my opinion," Lane adds.

:: It keeps your brain healthy too

"From the first moment of thinking about what to do in the garden, whether it be passive (sitting and enjoying) or active (physically gardening), we are improving our brain health. I have noticed how my own cognitive recall has improved since gardening and doing garden design," says Lane.

Neurons in the brain are sparked, whatever you're doing garden-wise, whether choosing seeds, border planning or actively planting. Relax your mind by creating a seating area, preferably in the shade, listening to birdsong.

:: You can grow your own healing herb garden

Lane has his own herb garden area, aware of their natural healing powers. "Peppermint is great for helping with bloating and indigestion, dandelion is packed with vitamins and minerals and helps cleanse the liver, and rosemary or sage contain flavonoids that help prevent cancer and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes," he says.

:: Even contact with soil could be a health-booster

"There's a harmless bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, normally found in dirt, which stimulates the immune system and has also been found to boost the production of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical," says Lane. "Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, so physical contact with soil may help elevate our mood."

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