If you want to improve your body image – that is, if you want to appreciate your body and what it can do – get in your garden (or, better still, your allotment). That’s the conclusion of UK scientists, who have studied gardeners working on allotments in north London.

Writing in the journal Ecopsychology, the researchers found gardening promotes positive body image. By quizzing 84 gardeners and 81 non-gardeners, they found that:

• Gardeners have far higher levels of body appreciation

• They have significantly higher levels of body pride too

• Gardeners appreciate what their bodies can do far more than non-gardeners

Led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University, the research team also discovered that the longer you spend gardening, the better the improvement in body image when you put down your spade for the day.

“Positive body image is beneficial because it helps to foster psychological and physical resilience, which contributes to overall wellbeing,” says Professor Swami.

“My previous research has shown the benefits of being in nature more generally, but increasing urbanisation has meant that many people now have less access to nature.

“The findings from this new study are important because they specifically show the significant benefits of spending time on allotments, which are typically quite small patches of green space in otherwise mainly urban environments.”

Waiting lists for allotments are notoriously lengthy in many areas in the UK. But it’s worth putting your name down for one now, especially if you don’t have your own garden (visit your local authority website for details). Alternatively you could consider volunteering for a gardening project – the Royal Horticultural Society is just one charity with thousands of gardening projects available to volunteeers: visit www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/community.