It's National Allotments Week! National Allotments Week was developed as a way to raise awareness of allotments and the role they play in helping people to live healthier lifestyles. In this blog, content developer Richard talks about some of the benefits of having an allotment when you have cancer.

Although I don’t have an allotment, I have fond childhood memories of pottering around on my dad’s. We’d spend many hours digging and planting, weeding and watering. And then enjoy our rewards of homegrown fresh vegetables and soft fruits. Back in the day, I just thought it was a bit of fun - which it is! Little did I realise the enormous benefits that having an allotment can bring.

Get active
When you have cancer, an allotment is a great way to get active. There are benefits of being active at every stage of cancer or treatment. It can help to:

  • reduce tiredness and some treatment side effects
  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • improve your mood and quality of life
  • strengthen your muscles, joints and bones
  • look after your heart and reduce the risk of other health problems.

The great thing about an allotment is you can do as little or as much as you want or feel able to. You can start small, perhaps with a little area, or aim big by digging over your whole plot. Before starting any physical activity, it’s a good idea to check with your cancer doctor or specialist nurse.

This image is a quote from David. It reads 'when i got the diagnosis, it made me take a look at myself. I realised how important exercise and diet are to things like cancer. It made me realise it was time to make a major change.

Eat healthily
Many of us could probably do with more fruit and vegetables in our diet. When managed properly, an allotment is a great way of getting hold of some of the freshest fruit and vegetables available. Fresh fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy balanced diet. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are also usually low in fat.

this diagram shows the different amounts of types of food you need to eat to stay healthy.

Eating well and keeping to a healthy weight will help you keep up your strength, increase your energy levels and improve your sense of well-being. It can also help reduce the risk of new cancers and other diseases, such as:

Mental well-being
Spending time on an allotment, growing vegetables, experiencing the seasons, and witnessing the behaviour of birds and insects is a great way to help improve mental well-being. Many allotment gardeners will tell you that spending time nurturing plants and contemplating nature makes them feel calmer and more hopeful.

An allotment can be a great way to “take time out”. It can give you a break from treatment and every-day routine, and give you time to think. This can help to release tension, focus your mind and give you something to plan and look forward to.

Spending time on an allotment can also be very sociable. It’s a great space to chat and share with other like-minded people.

Find an allotment near you
Unfortunately, if you don’t have an allotment it can take time to get one. Waiting lists are often very long. The National Allotment Society have some great advice to help you find a plot.

If you are inspired to have a go at gardening, you don’t have to have access to an allotment or garden. There are schemes across the UK where you can garden, grow fruit and vegetables or take part in nature conservation, for example green gyms. Visit your local authority’s website to see what schemes might be available near you.

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