24 May 2021

Daily gardening is as good for mental wellbeing as regular vigorous exercise

New research from the Department of Landscape Architecture, in collaboration with the RHS, has revealed a significant association between gardening more frequently and improvements in wellbeing, perceived stress and physical activity.

Aquilegia vulgaris

The study, published in the journal Cities, surveyed more than 6000 people and results indicate that those who garden every day have wellbeing scores 6.6% higher and stress levels 4.2% lower than people who don’t garden at all.

Lead author, Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui says; “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. This shifts our focus away from ourselves and our stresses, thereby restoring our minds and reducing negative feelings.

Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui

Study author


Respondents who gardened 2-3 times a week had a 4.1% higher wellbeing score and 2.4% lower stress levels compared to people who don’t garden at all. However, gardening fewer than 3 times a month has less of a positive impact.

The study conducted in collaboration with the RHS and the University of Virginia found that more frequent gardening was also linked with greater physical activity supporting the notion that gardening is good for both body and mind.

Dr Chalmin-Pui adds; “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.  

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15% of respondents said gardening made them feel calm and relaxed

“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 ‘over-dose’ on gardening!”

‘Pleasure and enjoyment’ is the reason why 6 in 10 people garden. Nearly a third say they garden for the ‘health benefits’; 1 in 5 say ‘wellbeing’ is the reason they garden and 15% say it makes them feel calm and relaxed.

Co-author, Dr Ross Cameron commented; “This research provides further empirical data to support the value of gardening and gardens for mental restoration and ‘promoting a calmness of mind’.


We also found a greater proportion of plants in the garden was linked with greater wellbeing, suggesting even just viewing ‘green’ gardens may help.

Dr Ross Cameron

Study author


It was not just able gardeners who benefited. Those with health problems stated gardening eased episodes of depression (13%), boosted energy levels (12%) and reduced stress (16%).

The report adds to a mountain of evidence showing the positive health benefits of gardening. One study found that calories burnt from 30 minutes of gardening is comparable to playing a social game badminton, volleyball or practicing yoga.

Why garden? – Attitudes and the perceived health benefits of home gardening