, ,

A leading medical expert has claimed that people with depression could benefit more from gardening classes than they could from anti-depressants.

The Independent  reports that Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, believes that the Government’s health reforms will give GPs more freedom to prescribe a variety of treatments that could help their patients – including gardening and camping trips to tackle depression and dance lessons to combat obesity.

Sir Richard, who is a patron of Thrive, a national charity that provides gardening therapy, says: “Drug therapy can be really expensive, but gardening costs little and anyone can do it.”

He adds: “I have, for some time, thought doctors should prescribe a course of gardening for people who come to them with depression or stroke. The new commissioning structures about to be introduced might allow more innovative treatment approaches to be put in place, including the opportunity to try gardening rather than prescribe expensive drugs.”

He explains: “I would much rather a doctor had time to listen to patients and, instead of prescribing anti-depressants, prescribe a course of gardening. I always wonder why people go to the gym when there is a ‘green gym’ outdoors for us all – and, what’s more, it’s free. Gardening burns off calories; makes joints supple and is fantastic exercise. It’s a physical activity that has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of anxiety, depression and dementia.”

TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh has already said that gardening is “great as a therapy” and the Health minster Paul Burstow says: “There is plenty of evidence to show the benefits of exercise on people’s heath and well-being. I’m sure gardening brings those benefits.”