50+ health * Healthy living

Allotments keep you healthy

Allotments keep you healthy And it's not just the fresh vegetables

In the current economic climate the humble allotment is staging something of a comeback as a cost-effective means of growing food and getting out of the house. But now a new study suggests that having an allotment may also help make a person healthier.

An allotment is typically a small plot of land used for growing fruits and vegetables. These are often provided as part of community schemes to give people access to a garden area.

A team of researchers from Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Netherlands looked at the effects of allotment tending on a group of 180 people, 120 of which had allotments and the remainder being neighbours without allotments.

The study found that during peak summer months the allotment owners enjoyed an extra day's physical activity each week. In particular, people over the age of 60 with allotment access had significantly improved perceived general health and lower stress levels.

Commenting on the results, study leader Agnes van den Berg said: "Taken together, our findings provide the first direct empirical evidence for health benefits of allotment gardens. Having an allotment garden may promote an active life-style and contribute to healthy ageing."

But she warned that the allotment is a threatened species: "Around the world, allotment gardens are increasingly under pressure from building and infrastructure developments. Considering that allotments may play a vital role in developing active and healthy lifestyles, governments and local authorities might do well to protect and enhance them."

The results of the study are published in the journal Environmental Health.

This article was published on Tue 23 November 2010

Image © edbockstock - Fotolia.com

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