In this blog, Content Developer Azmina explains why gardening is a great way to keep active when you have cancer. She also gives 10 top tips for National Gardening Week.

a photograph of gardening equipment

What is the aim of National Gardening Week?

National Gardening Week takes place from 29 April to 6 May 2019. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) organises this annual celebration of gardening. It suggests lots of imaginative project ideas, from planting wildlife friendly areas to growing herbs on a sunny windowsill.

The aim is to inspire more of us to enjoy the healthy and productive outdoor activity of gardening.

What are the benefits of gardening?

There are many benefits to keeping active through gardening during and after cancer treatment:

  • Keeping active can help reduce some side effects of treatment, such as tiredness, anxiety or depression and risks to your heart health.
  • Physical activity such as gardening can help you regain physical strength and look after your bones and muscles.
  • Being outdoors in a natural environment can help you relax and improve your mood.
  • Watching flowers bloom, or growing your own food, may give you a sense of joy and achievement during a difficult period in your life.
  • By taking part in community gardening, you can meet new friends and connect with others.

a quote from our supporter Susan

10 top tips for National Gardening Week

Here are 10 practical tips for making gardening a safe and enjoyable hobby if you are living with cancer:

  1. Before you begin gardening, check with your doctors. If you have low immunity, you may be at more risk of getting an infection and need to take a few extra precautions. Chemotherapy and some types of radiotherapy can weaken your immune system.
  2. To reduce the risk of infection from cuts or grazes and direct contact with the soil, always wear gardening gloves. This is especially important if you have any swelling (lymphoedema) in your hands or arms.
  3. Remember to wear protective clothing and use sun cream with a high sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Some chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy can make your skin more sensitive to the sun for several years after treatment.
  4. If you have not been active for a while, it is important to build up your fitness levels gradually. Plan how long you will spend in the garden and what can be achieved in that time. We have some top tips for gardening in spring time.
  5. Try some gentle stretches before and after gardening to allow your body to warm up and cool down.
  6. Choose plants that are easy to grow and suit the conditions in your garden. The charity Thrive has a useful guide about plants that require little maintenance.
  7. Ask a relative, friend or part-time gardener to help with any strenuous gardening activities, such as mowing your lawn. Alternatively, consider having an artificial lawn or letting the grass grow long in some areas to support wildlife.
  8. Use small or lightweight equipment to make gardening easier. If you are bending over flower beds, a 'kneeler' can give you extra support. Lightweight wheelbarrows can help you transport things around the garden without straining your body.
  9. Take a few moments to notice and appreciate what you can see, hear, smell, feel and touch in your garden. This may help you feel calmer and at one with your surroundings.
  10. If you do not have a garden, you could grow flowers in window boxes, hire an allotment plot or join a community garden scheme. Maggie’s Centres are local support centres for people with cancer. Their gardening therapy groups allow you to take part in a creative activity with others who are going through a similar experience.

Gardening is a wonderful way to improve both your physical and mental well-being, and National Gardening Week is the perfect time to get involved. For more information on ways to keep active, including gardening, you can order our Move More pack at be.macmillan.org.uk

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