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Body Image Benefits of Allotment Gardening



Allotment gardening-where individuals rent a small plot of land in a public space separated from the home-has been shown to improve psychological well-being and physical health. However, the impact of allotment gardening on body image has not been previously assessed, despite evidence that exposure to natural environments elevates positive body image. Here, a sample of 84 allotment gardeners from London, United Kingdom, were asked to complete a measure of state body image before and after spending time on their allotments. They were also asked to complete several measures of trait positive body image-namely, body appreciation, functionality appreciation, and body pride-selected to provide broad coverage of the positive body image construct. These data were compared to scores from a matched, non-gardener control group (n = 81). Results indicated that allotment gardening resulted in significantly improved state body image and that longer time spent on the allotment was associated with larger improvements. In addition, between-group analyses indicated that allotment gardeners had significantly higher positive body image than non-gardeners across all included indices. These results corroborate previous work suggesting that exposure to natural environments brings real benefits in terms of positive body image. Ensuring that these benefits are experienced by all requires policies that provide for dedicated and sustained community allotment plots.
Body Image Benefits of Allotment Gardening
Viren Swami1-2
1School of Psychology and Sport Science, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
2Centre for Psychological Medicine, Perdana University, Serdang, Malaysia
Address for correspondence: Prof. Viren Swami, School of Psychology and Sport Science,
Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB1 1PT, United
Kingdom. Email:
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Allotment gardening – where individuals rent a small plot of land in a public space separated
from the home – has been shown to improve psychological well-being and physical health.
However, the impact of allotment gardening on body image has not been previously assessed,
despite evidence that exposure to natural environments elevates positive body image. Here, a
sample of 84 allotment gardeners from London, United Kingdom, were asked to complete a
measure of state body image before and after spending time on their allotments. They were
also asked to complete several measures of trait positive body image – namely, body
appreciation, functionality appreciation, and body pride – selected to provide broad coverage
of the positive body image construct. These data were compared to scores from a matched,
non-gardener control group (n = 81). Results indicated that allotment gardening resulted in
significantly improved state body image and that longer time spent on the allotment was
associated with larger improvements. In addition, between-group analyses indicated that
allotment gardeners had significantly higher positive body image than non-gardeners across
all included indices. These results corroborate previous work suggesting that exposure to
natural environments brings real benefits in terms of positive body image. Ensuring that these
benefits are experienced by all requires policies that provide for dedicated and sustained
community allotment plots.
Keywords: Allotment gardening; Positive body image; Nature exposure; Body
appreciation; Functionality appreciation; Body pride
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1. Introduction
The construct of positive body image refers to an “overarching love and respect for
the body” and includes an appreciation of the body and its functions, acceptance of the body
despite its imperfections, and body-protective behaviours (Tylka, 2018, p. 9). In this
perspective, positive body image is not merely the absence, or the polar opposite, of negative
body image (e.g., body dissatisfaction) (Webb, Wood-Barcalow, & Tylka, 2015). Instead, the
construct of positive body image represents an independent and multi-faceted construct that is
uniquely associated with indices of psychological and physical well-being, including self-
esteem, life satisfaction, positive self-care health behaviours, and adaptive eating behaviours
(for reviews, see Tylka, 2018, 2019; Tylka & Wood-Barcalow, 2015a). This, in turn, means
that the promotion of more positive body image offers a useful means of fostering
psychological and physical resilience, contributing to well-being, and allowing individuals to
thrive (Tylka, 2019). In order to achieve these outcomes, it is vital to develop interventions
that promote positive body image rather than simply reduce negative body image (Guest et
al., 2019; Webb et al., 2015).
One method that could potentially be effective at promoting positive body image is
exposure to natural environments. Within the broader literature, the salutogenic effects of
natural environments on human health and well-being are well documented (e.g., Collado,
Staats, Corraliza, & Hartig, 2017; Frumkin et al., 2017), but recent work has noted that such
effects also extend to positive body image. For example, cross-sectional studies have reported
that greater exposure to natural environments is significantly associated with facets of
positive body image, such as body appreciation and functionality appreciation (Mitten &
D’Amore, 2018; Swami et al., 2019; Swami, Barron, Weis, & Furnham, 2016). Experimental
research has likewise shown that exposure to isomorphic nature – presented in the form of
photographs of natural environments (Swami, Barron, & Furnham, 2018) and a film of a
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first-person walk in nature (Swami, Pickering, Barron, & Patel, 2018) – produces elevations
in state positive body image. Finally, exposure to real natural environments – operationalised
as walks in nature or time spent in a designed green space (Swami, Barron et al., 2018) – has
also been shown to improve state positive body image.
Capitalising on these effects requires that citizens have easy access to natural
environments, but increasing urbanisation has meant that many people are exposed to
reduced levels of nature (Turner, Nakamura, & Dinetti, 2004). Gardening provides an
opportunity for urban dwellers to have regular contact with nature and has been found to
improve physiological health, elevate positive mood, encourage physical activity, and
promote better psychological well-being (for reviews, see Ohly et al., 2016; Soga, Gaston, &
Yamaura, 2017). However, many homes in the United Kingdom do not have access to
domestic gardens (Davies, Fuller, Loram, Irvine, Sims, & Gaston, 2009) and garden coverage
is diminishing due to backland development and urban sprawl (Goode, 2006). In this context,
urban allotment gardening – where individuals rent a small plot of land in a public space
separated from the home to grow fruit and vegetables for personal consumption (Bell et al.,
2016) – takes on renewed importance and, perhaps unsurprisingly, has witnessed a resurgence
in popularity in the United Kingdom (Campbell & Campbell, 2013).
Recent studies (e.g., Clatworthy, Hinds, Camic, 2017; van den Berg, van Winsum-
Westra, de Vried, & van Dillen, 2010; Wood, Pretty, & Griffin, 2016) and a systematic review
(Genter, Roberts, Richardson, & Sheaff, 2015) have indicated that allotment gardening has
the potential to improve health and psychological well-being. To date, however, most studies
have utilised specific subsets of the population (e.g., individuals experiencing mental health
conditions rather than allotment holders in general; Genter et al., 2015), have not utilised
comparison groups (e.g., non-gardeners; Wood et al., 2016), and – importantly – have not
examined the impact of allotment gardening on body image. To rectify these oversights, the
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present study examined the effect of allotment gardening on state body image in a sample of
allotment gardeners. It was hypothesised that allotment gardening would result in
significantly improved state body image in this sample. In addition, trait positive body image
in this group was compared with a matched, non-gardener control group, with the expectation
that scores would be significantly higher in the former.
2. Method
2.1. Participants
One-hundred and sixty-five participants, of whom 84 were allotment gardeners and 81
were non-gardeners, volunteered to take part in the study. Participants ranged in age from 20
to 82 years (M = 44.70, SD = 18.16) and in self-reported body mass index (BMI) from 16.32
to 48.05 kg/m2 (M = 25.53, SD = 5.38). Of the total sample, 60% were women and the
majority were married (73.9%), in full-time employment (55.2%), and of British White
descent (86.7%).
2.2. Measures
2.2.1. State body image. The allotment gardeners were asked to complete a measure
of state body image pre- and post-session. To operationalise state body image, a visual
analogue scale was used, with participants rating their satisfaction with their overall
appearance on a 100-milimeter line anchored by two extremes (extreme dissatisfaction to
extreme satisfaction) (Heinberg & Thompson, 1995). Responses were measured to the nearest
millimetre, with higher scores reflecting greater satisfaction with overall appearance at that
moment in time. Visual analogue scales have been shown to have good construct validity and
are sensitive to short-term changes (Heinberg & Thompson, 1995).
2.2.2. Trait body image. To measure trait body image, gardeners and non-gardeners
were asked to complete three measures of positive body image. The first was the Body
Appreciation Scale-2 (Tylka & Wood-Barcalow, 2015b), a 10-item measure of acceptance of
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one’s body, respect and care for one’s body, and protection of one’s body image from
unrealistic beauty standards. Items were rated on a 5-point scale (1 = never, 5 = always), with
higher mean scores reflecting higher body appreciation. The second measure was the
Functionality Appreciation Scale (Alleva, Tylka, & Kroon van Diest, 2017), a 7-item measure
of one’s appreciation for what the body does and can do. All items were rated on a 5-point
scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), and higher mean scores reflect
greater functionality appreciation. The final measure was the 6-item Authentic Pride subscale
of the Body and Appearance Self-Conscious Emotions Scale (Castonguay, Sabiston, Crocker,
& Mack, 2014), which measures body pride as a sense of personal appearance-related
achievement. Items on this subscale were rated on a 5-point scale (1 = Never, to 5 = Always)
and scores were averaged so that higher scores reflect greater authentic body pride. All three
instruments have been shown to have adequate psychometric properties (Alleva et al., 2017;
Castonguay et al., 2014; Tylka & Wood-Barcalow, 2015b). In the present study, all internal
consistencies were adequate across measures and across groups (all ω ≥ .89).
2.2.3. Additional measures. Both groups were asked to provide their demographic
details consisting of sex, age, relationship status, employment status, ethnicity, height, and
weight. Height and weight were used to compute self-reported BMI as kg/m2. The gardener
group were also asked to report the time spent on the allotment during the testing session in
minutes and to report the tenure of their allotment in months.
2.3. Procedures
Ethics approval was obtained from the relevant departmental ethics committee.
Between April and September 2018, allotment gardeners were recruited from twelve
allotment sites in north London, United Kingdom. Inclusion criteria included having a
tenured allotment, being a United Kingdom resident, being of adult age, and self-reported
fluency in English. In addition, only one participant was permitted per allotment. These
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participants were recruited via direct approach and were provided with brief information
about the study. Individuals who agreed to take part in the study provided written informed
consent and completed a pre-session questionnaire consisting of the VAS. Upon exit of the
allotment, they were asked to complete a second questionnaire consisting of the post-session
VAS, the measures of trait body image, and demographic items.
To recruit a matched control group of non-gardeners, the procedure established by
Wood and colleagues (2016) was followed, which involved recruiting participants from eight
supermarkets located closest to the allotment sites. Non-gardeners were identified by verbally
asking individuals if they gardened and indicating that eligibility required that they “do not
do anything in the garden” (Wood et al., 2016). Individuals who were eligible and met
additional inclusion criteria (being a United Kingdom resident, being of adult age, and self-
reported fluency in English) were provided with brief information about the study. Those who
agreed to participate provided written informed consent and completed a single questionnaire
containing the measures of trait body image and demographic items. All participants across
both groups took part on a voluntary basis, were not remunerated, and were provided with
written debrief information.
3. Results
3.1. Impact of Allotment Gardening on State Body Image
To examine the impact of allotment gardening on state body image, a paired-samples
t-test was computed with VAS scores. Results indicated a significant increase in VAS scores
from pre-session (M = 52.95, SD = 18.84) to post-session (M = 62.64, SD = 16.81), t(83) =
4.86, p < .001, dependence-corrected d = 0.53. The mean length of tenure on the allotments
was 58.12 months (SD = 21.00) and the mean session length was 153.30 minutes (SD =
120.82). To examine whether these variables had an impact on state body image change, the
difference between pre- and post-session VAS scores was first computed. Next, a linear
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multiple regression was computed with the VAS difference score as the criterion variable and
tenure and session length, respectively as predictor variables. The regression was significant,
F(2, 83) = 27.07, p < .001, Adj. R2 = .39. Longer session duration was associated with greater
state body image change (r = .62, B = .09, SE = .01, β = .61, t = 7.04, p < .001), but not
tenure (r = .18, B = .10, SE = .08, β = .12, t = 1.38, p = .175).
3.2. Comparison of Allotment Gardeners and Non-Gardeners
Independent-samples t-tests indicated no significant differences between allotment
gardeners and non-gardeners in terms of age, t(163) = 1.07, p = .287, d = 0.17, and self-
reported BMI, t(163) = 0.48, p = .633, d = 0.08. There were also no significant differences
across groups in the distribution of sex, χ2(1) = 0.02, p = .899, relationship status, χ2(4) =
3.38, p = .496, occupational status, χ2(4) = 7.48, p = .113, and ethnicity, χ2(3) = 0.49, p = .922.
These results suggest that the two groups were adequately matched in terms of these
demographic criteria. Next, to test whether there were between-group differences in trait
positive body image, a series of Bonferroni-corrected (p = .05/3 = .016) independent-samples
t-tests were computed. Results indicated that, compared to the non-gardeners, the gardener
group had significantly higher body appreciation (gardener M = 3.47, SD = 0.75; non-
gardener M = 3.08, SD = 0.81), t(163) = 3.25, p = .001, d = 0.51, functionality appreciation
(gardener M = 3.54, SD = 0.68; non-gardener M = 3.16, SD = 0.82), t(163) = 3.32, p = .001, d
= 0.52, and body pride (gardener M = 3.11, SD = 0.89; non-gardener M = 2.62, SD = 0.93),
t(163) = 3.46, p = .001, d = 0.54.
4. Discussion
There were two important findings in the present study. First, it was found that
spending time on an allotment resulted in significantly improved state body satisfaction in a
sample of gardeners. This finding is consistent with previous work showing that direct
exposure to real nature results in significant improvements to state body image (Swami,
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Barron et al., 2018), as well as studies indicating that allotment gardening has positive effects
on psychological well-being (e.g., Clatworthy et al., 2017; van den Berg et al., 2010; Wood et
al., 2016). The present finding is important in light of increasing urbanisation and the costs of
urban living in terms of psychological well-being, as well as the decline in garden coverage
in homes in the United Kingdom (Davies et al., 2009). It might be suggested allotment
gardening is a useful means of promoting not just general psychological well-being, but also
more positive body image, for people living in urban areas. Importantly, the present study
also showed that time spent on the allotment on a single visit was significantly associated
with larger increases in state positive body image. This result is consistent with other research
showing that the amount of time spent on allotments is associated with higher psychological
well-being (Webber, Hinds, & Camic, 2015) and points to possible dose-response effects (see
Pasanen, Ojala, Tyrväinen, & Korpela, 2018).
This suggestion is consistent with the second important finding of the present study,
namely that allotment gardeners had significantly higher trait positive body image – as
assessed through multiple instruments – compared to a matched, non-gardener control group.
This fits with previous research indicating that allotment gardeners had significantly higher
life satisfaction and self-esteem, better overall health, and fewer symptoms of depression and
reduced loneliness compared to non-gardeners (van den Berg et al., 2010; Wood et al., 2016).
Understanding mechanistic pathways that lead to these differences is difficult to ascertain
through cross-sectional data alone, but taken together the present data suggest that time spent
on allotments may contribute to short-term elevations in state body image, which in turn
contribute to improved trait positive body image in the longer-term. Of course, there may be
additional pathways through which these benefits are realised, such as the provision of
meaningful activity that influence feelings of connectedness to nature and to others, greater
self-compassion, and improved physical activity and health (Swami, Barron et al., 2018,
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2019; Webber et al., 2015). Understanding how allotment gardening contributes to more
positive body image may be facilitated in the future through qualitative research.
A number of limitations of the present study limits the conclusions that can be drawn
at present. First, although attempts were made to recruit matched samples of gardeners and
non-gardeners, it is possible that between-group differences were an artefact of questionnaire
completion (i.e., completing the questionnaire on an allotment versus at a supermarket or
because of mood differences during testing). Second, the lack of a control makes it difficult to
know whether improvements in state body image were a function of allotment gardening or
other factors, though it should be noted that an active control group may be difficult to
conceptualise in the absence of further research. Third, because no additional measures were
included in the survey package, it is possible that the gardeners in particular were able to
guess the study hypothesis and thus responded in a socially desirable manner. Fourth,
although the two groups were well matched in terms of key demographic criteria, it may be
important in future research to consider additional covarying variables, such as social class,
income, and engagement in physical activities. Finally, the present results are limited to
allotment gardeners in a single locale in the United Kingdom and it is unclear to what extent
the same findings would be replicable in other locations and national groups.
Future studies could build on the present work in a number of other ways, primarily
through seeking to better understand mechanistic pathways that lead to improvements in body
image as a function of allotment gardening. One way to achieve this would be to include
possible mediating variables, such as connectedness to nature, self-esteem, self-compassion,
and trait mindfulness. In a similar vein, it would be useful to examine to what extent
allotment gardening results in reduced negative body image, as opposed to improvements in
positive body image (see Swami et al., 2016). Despite these omissions and the preliminary
nature of the present work, accumulating evidence suggests that allotment gardening – and
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nature exposure more generally – has a host of benefits for psychological well-being (Genter
et al., 2015), including in terms of body image. Ensuring that opportunities for gardening are
available to all people is, therefore, vital and may help to reduce the long-term cost burden on
health services in the United Kingdom. One way to achieve this, beyond policies that ensure
access to green spaces for all citizens, would be through the provision of dedicated and
sustained community allotment plots.
Author Disclosure Statement
There are no conflicts of interest to declare.
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... Concernant les zones géographiques, sur les 18 études incluses dans l'analyse, huit ont été conduites aux États-Unis [32,34,35,[38][39][40][41][42], huit en Europe [36,[43][44][45][46][47], une au Japon [48] et une à Singapour [49]. Deux ont été conduites en France : l'une dans des quartiers défavorisés de Marseille [46], et l'autre dans les jardins partagés de la ville de Montpellier [45]. ...
... Deux ont été conduites en France : l'une dans des quartiers défavorisés de Marseille [46], et l'autre dans les jardins partagés de la ville de Montpellier [45]. Les études menées aux États-Unis, en France et à Singapour ciblaient des jardins partagés (n = 11) [32,34,35,[38][39][40][41][42]45,46,49], et les autres, des jardins familiaux (n = 7) [33,36,43,44,47,48,50]. Deux études ont été menées auprès de personnes âgées [33,43] [32][33][34][35][36][38][39][40][41]43,[46][47][48][49]. ...
... Les quatre autres études étaient basées respectivement sur : une évaluation post-test uniquement avec présence d'un groupe de comparaison (i.e. études dans lesquelles les données ne sont recueillies qu'après intervention) [42], une évaluation avant-après une session de jardinage avec présence d'un groupe de comparaison [44], un essai contrôlé randomisé évaluant l'effet d'une session de jardinage [50], et, pour l'étude conduite à Montpellier, une expérimentation naturelle évaluée selon un design quasi-expérimental (c'est-à-dire une évaluation avant-après avec groupe de comparaison mais sans randomisation) [45]. Un essai contrôlé randomisé suivant les jardiniers pendant 1 an a été identifié [51] mais les résultats n'étant pas encore publiés, cette étude n'a pas été incluse dans la présente revue de la littérature. ...
Résumé De nombreuses villes implantent des jardins collectifs sur leurs territoires dans le but de promouvoir la santé et le bien-être des habitants. Nous avons conduit une revue systématique de la littérature des études s’appuyant sur des méthodes quantitatives pour explorer le lien entre participation à jardin collectif et santé des citadins adultes. Sur les 1430 articles identifiés, 18 ont été retenus. L’outil « d’évaluation de la qualité des études quantitatives » développé par l’EPHPP a été utilisé pour évaluer la qualité méthodologique des études. La participation à un jardin collectif était associée à une plus grande consommation de fruits et légumes, ainsi qu’à un bien-être mental et social accru. Les résultats étaient mitigés pour l’IMC, l’activité physique et d’autres indicateurs de la santé physique. Les études étaient de faible qualité, principalement en raison de leur design transversal (n = 14/18) et de leur risque élevé de biais de sélection (n = 15/18). Davantage d’études longitudinales avec évaluation avant/après et présence d’un groupe contrôle sont nécessaires pour déterminer si les jardins collectifs peuvent être un outil efficace pour promouvoir la santé des citadins.
... Based on SRT and ART, it has been hypothesized that the natural environment provides humans with opportunities to physically and mentally distance themselves from heavily appearance-focused societal contexts and helps to mitigate against negative thoughts and feelings related to body appearance [17,19]. Evidence from experimental studies suggests that allotment gardening, spending time in nature, or exposure to simulated (i.e., images and films of) natural environments are associated with an elevated state of positive body image [17,18,[25][26][27]. ...
... First, the study is cross-sectional and the associations between the variables cannot be considered as causal. However, previous experimental and pseudo-experimental studies on the effect of nature exposure on positive body image lead us to believe that regular exposure to natural environments increases positive body image, but not vice versa [10,18,25,26]. Another limitation of the present study is that we assessed positive body image as body appreciation. ...
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Research shows that nature exposure is directly and indirectly associated with more positive body image, which is an important facet of well-being more generally. In this study, we tested the mediating roles of physical activity in nature, perceived restoration in nature, autonomous motivation, and connectedness to nature in explaining the association between nature exposure and positive body image. An online sample of 924 Lithuanian adults (age M = 40.0 years, 73.6% women) completed a survey that included the Nature Exposure (NE) Scale, the Body Appreciation Scale-2, a measure of frequency of physical activity in nature (PAN), the Behavioral Regulation in Exercise Questionnaire-2, the Restoration Outcome Scale, and the Connectedness to Nature Scale. Path analysis was conducted to examine hypothesized direct and indirect effects. Results showed that both greater NE (B = 0.564, SE = 0.057, p < 0.001) and autonomy in exercise motivation (B = 0.039, SE = 0.006, p < 0.001) were associated with more frequent PAN. Direct effects from exercise autonomy to nature restorativeness (B = 0.017, SE = 0.006, p = 0.004) and body appreciation (B = 0.041, SE = 0.004, p < 0.001) were observed. Associations were also found between connectedness to nature and body appreciation (B = 0.166, SE = 0.040, p < 0.001), nature restorativeness and body appreciation (B = 0.075, SE = 0.019, p < 0.001), and frequency of PAN and body appreciation (B = 0.064, SE = 0.019, p < 0.001). PAN mediated the relationship between NE and body appreciation. The final model was invariant across place of residence (urban vs. rural) and gender. Including self-determined physical activity in nature may increase the effectiveness of intervention programs aimed at promoting more positive body image.
... In addition to this direct link, nature exposure was related to functionality appreciation indirectly through the self-kindness and common humanity components of self-compassion. In another study, Swami (2020) investigated the effects of allotment gardening (one avenue offering exposure to nature) on state appearance satisfaction among women and men. The gardeners experienced an improvement in state appearance satisfaction from before to after having spent time on their allotment, and a longer time spent on the allotment was associated with larger improvements. ...
... Indeed, some of the studies that have been conducted using the FAS (Alleva et al., 2017) have found an inverse correlation between FAS scores and BMI among women and men (Soulliard & Vander Wal, 2019;Todd et al., 2019b), though the magnitude of this association has been small. Other studies have not found any significant relationships between BMI and FAS scores (Alleva et al., 2017;Swami, Todd et al., 2019, 2020 or did not report these relationships (Linardon et al., 2020;Swami, 2019;Swami, Barron, Hari et al., 2019;Todd et al., 2019a). Studies using measures of functionality satisfaction-which focus on the domains of physical capacities and internal processes-have found that people of higher BMI tend to feel less satisfied with their body functionality. ...
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Body functionality describes everything that the body is able to do, across diverse domains (e.g., bodily senses, creative endeavours). Nearly a decade ago, leading scholars identified research on body functionality as a priority for the body image field. The field has responded, as shown by the recent rise of body functionality research. We considered this an opportune time to (a) define body functionality (what it is and is not); (b) present theoretical frameworks of body functionality; (c) articulate first-generation and current measures relating to body functionality; (d) offer functionality-focused body image interventions that can improve appreciation for one's body functionality (and body image more broadly); (e) summarise additional areas of research related to body functionality and positive body image; and (f) provide considerations and directions for future research and interventions incorporating body functionality. Research has underscored body functionality as a valuable construct with respect to positive body image and well-being, particularly when individuals appreciate what their bodies can do and conceptualise their body functionality holistically. Yet, the experience of body functionality is nuanced across social identities. Overall, the field has greatly advanced knowledge about body functionality, and we are excited to see the next generation of research that emerges.
... [30][31][32][33] Other studies have shown that, when participants spend time nature -such as in parks and botanic gardensthey experience more positive body image as a result. [34][35] For instance, one study conducted in Malaysia found that participants who went on jungle hike or spent time at a beach experienced improved positive body image. 36 However, these studies were either cross-sectional or did not include control conditions, which makes it difficult to assess causal relationships. ...
Technical Report
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As many Asian nations rapidly urbanise, governments and policy-makers are having to deal with the negative impacts of urbanisation on population mental health. One cost-effective way of promoting population psychological well-being is through nature experiences, or exposure to natural environments. Studies consistently show that nature experiences are associated with benefits for mental health. Here, I show that exposure to natural environments is also associated with more positive body image, beyond benefits to mental health more generally. I review the evidence from cross-sectional, prospective, and experimental fieldwork showing that spending time in natural environments is associated with healthier body image, while acknowledging that much of this work has been conducted in the Global North. Such findings highlight the importance of ensuring that all citizens have easy access to natural environments, particularly in increasingly urbanised Asian nations where town planning and greenspace requirements are often at odds. There is now an urgent need for authorities to protect ecological assets, such as remnant forest patches, as well the provision of, and access to, natural environments.
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Background We systematically reviewed the effects of community gardens on physical and psychosocial health, health behaviors and community outcomes. Methods Quantitative studies that examined associations of health, psychosocial or community outcomes with community gardens were included in the review. Studies up to December 2020 were captured from searches of Medline, Web of Science, PsycInfo, EBSCOHost and CAB Abstracts. Data were extracted and study quality including risk of bias was examined. Results There were 53 studies that met the inclusion criteria. Studies examining associations between community gardens and nutrition or food security were most frequently reported (k = 23). Other factors examined for associations with community gardens were health (k = 16), psychosocial (k = 16) and community outcomes (k = 7). Effects appeared positive for fruit and vegetable intake, some psychosocial and community outcomes, but mixed for physical health outcomes. Evidence quality overall was low. Conclusions Community gardening was associated with higher fruit and vegetable intake, positive psychosocial and community outcomes, but poor evidence quality suggests the effects of community gardening may be overestimated.
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The literature reports different benefits of people's relationship with nature. However, for the field of psychology the evidence is partial and not integrated. Consequently, the aim of this paper is to understand the psychological benefits of people's relationship with nature from a systemic review of empirical articles indexed in the Wos, Scopus and Scielo database, between the years 2015 and 2020. We used the PRISMA model for the search, identification and suitability of the articles, which were analyzed in their bibliometric characteristics and thematic content. The main bibliometric findings show that articles produced in the United Kingdom and the United States predominate, conducted in urban natural environments using quantitative methodologies with the use of surveys and physiological measurements. Thematically, we distinguish five dimensions of psychological benefits: restoration of attention, restoration and/or reduction of stress, psychological well-being, mental health and psychosocial benefits. We argue that these benefits are articulated by an activity that mediates people's relationship with nature. We conclude by pointing out the relevance of future research in the Latin American context, the integration of mediating activities and the use of qualitative methodologies.
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Mounting evidence suggests that exposure to natural environments is associated with more positive body image, but mechanistic pathways are not fully understood. Here, we tested one such indirect pathway involving positive rational acceptance (i.e., an adaptive body image coping strategy). A total of 401 participants from the United Kingdom completed measures of nature exposure, positive rational acceptance, and body appreciation (i.e., a facet of positive body image). Correlational analyses indicated positive, albeit weak-to-moderate associations, between all three constructs. Mediation analysis supported the hypothesis that positive rational acceptance mediates the association between nature exposure and body appreciation. These findings were robust in the total sample, as well as in women (n = 200) and men (n = 197) separately. These results highlight the potential benefit of nature exposure in terms of promoting adaptive body image coping strategies, which in turn are associated with more positive body image.
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Exposure to natural environments has been shown to be associated with more positive body image, but much of the existing research is limited to Western European nations and little is known about the robustness of these associations in other national contexts. In this protocol paper, we present a conceptual model of the direct and indirect associations (i.e., via self-compassion, connectedness to nature, and restorative experiences in nature) between nature exposure and body appreciation. This model brings together conceptualisations from existing research, but also extends it in a number of important ways. The model will be tested through the Body Image in Nature Survey (BINS), a researcher-crowdsourced project involving researchers in multiple nations worldwide. Data collection began in December 2020 and is expected to be completed in February 2022. Data will be analysed to examine the extent to which our conceptual model is robust across nations, as well as other sociodemographic characteristics. We will also determine the extent to which key variables included in our survey are invariant across nations and associated with cultural, socioeconomic, and gender-related factors. The BINS will likely have important implications for the development of nature-based interventions to promote healthier body appreciation in diverse national contexts.
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Previous research has shown that exposure to simulated natural environments, such as still images and film, promotes more positive state body image. However, this body of work has not distinguished between different types of natural environment, with the distinction between blue and green spaces being notable. Here, we asked a sample of 168 university students from the United Kingdom to complete a measure of state body appreciation before and after being randomly assigned to one of three groups in which they viewed images of blue spaces, green spaces, or built environments, respectively. A mixed analysis of variance showed that exposure to images of the natural environments, but not the built environments, significantly elevated state body appreciation. In addition, exposure to images of blue spaces had a stronger effect on state body appreciation than exposure to images of green spaces. These results replicate previous work showing that exposure to simulated natural environments promotes more positive state body image, but additionally shows that blue spaces may be more effective than green spaces. Implications of the present findings for the development of imagery-based interventions aimed at promoting healthier body image are discussed.
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Exposure to nature is associated with improved psychological well-being and positive body image. Here, we examined whether everyday exposure to natural environments is associated with state body image outcomes (and, for comparative reasons, state happiness) using an experience sampling method. One-hundred-and-seven participants completed a 30-day experience sampling phase in which they reported their state body image (body weight, body shape, and physical appearance satisfaction), state happiness, and features of the surrounding environment (total = 6,025 responses) at three random time-points each day. Results indicated that being outdoors was associated with significantly higher state body image on all three indicators, but effect sizes were lower compared to effects on state happiness. Specific environment type was also important, with blue-spaces and wood- and grasslands, respectively, having stronger effects than other environments. These results provide evidence that everyday exposure to natural environments is associated with more positive state body image and greater happiness.
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Theory suggests promoting positive body image (PBI) through interventions would have a significant impact on health and well-being. However, little is known about the effectiveness of existing interventions. This review aimed to identify and assess the evidence of effectiveness of interventions to increase PBI in adults. Database searches were conducted using CINAHL Plus, Medline, PsychINFO, Wiley Online Library, and SCOPUS. Application of inclusion criteria and data extraction were conducted by two reviewers. Methodological quality was assessed using the Effective Public Health Practice Project Quality Assessment Tool, and narrative synthesis was conducted. Fifteen studies, evaluating 13 interventions, were included. Three studies, evaluating one online writing-based functionality intervention, were judged to have strong methodological quality and had evidence of improving body appreciation, body esteem, and functionality satisfaction. Six moderate quality studies found interventions using intuitive eating, CBT, self-compassion, and exercise improved PBI. There was limited evidence of effectiveness of interventions for men, suggesting future research is needed to better understand PBI mechanisms in men. Lack of heterogeneity of outcome measures is discussed as a limitation. Findings suggest existing interventions are effective at increasing aspects of PBI among women and support the development of interventions that target multiple components of PBI.
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Previous studies have shown that exposure to natural environments is associated with positive body image, but mechanistic pathways are not fully understood. Here, we tested one possible pathway, namely with self-compassion as a mediator of the effects of nature exposure on positive body image. A British sample of 225 women and 229 men completed measures of positive body image (body appreciation, functionality appreciation), nature exposure, and three facets of self-compassion (Self-Kindness, Common Humanity, Mindfulness). Path analysis indicated that there were significant direct paths from nature exposure to both body appreciation and functionality appreciation, with the latter also additionally mediating the effects of nature exposure on body appreciation. In addition, two facets of self-compassion (Self-Kindness and Common Humanity, but not Mindfulness) mediated the relationships between nature exposure and body appreciation and functionality appreciation, respectively. These findings lend support to calls for everyone to have easy access to natural environments.
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Previous work has shown that exposure to images of nature results in elevated state body appreciation, but static images may lack ecological validity. Here, we examined the impact of exposure to short films of simulated, first-person walks in natural or built environments. Thirty-six university students completed a measure of state body appreciation before and after watching films of either a walk in a natural or a built environment created specifically for the present study. Two weeks later, they completed the same task but watched the other film type. Results indicated that exposure to the film of a natural environment resulted in significantly elevated state body appreciation (d = 0.66). There was no significant change in state body appreciation following exposure to the film of the built environment (d = 0.14). These findings suggest that exposure to films depicting the natural environment may promote immediate, moderate-sized improvements in state body image.
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Five studies were conducted to understand the impact of nature exposure on body image. In three studies using different designs and outcome measures, British university students were exposed to photographs of natural or built environments. Results indicated that exposure to images of natural, but not built, environments resulted in improved state body image. In Study 4, British community participants went on a walk in a natural or built environment, with results indicating that the walk in a natural environment resulted in significantly higher state body appreciation, whereas the walk in a built environment resulted in significantly lower scores. In Study 5, British participants were recruited as they were entering a designed green space on their own volition. Results indicated that spending time in the green space led to improved state body appreciation. These results indicate that exposure to isomorphic or in-situ natural environments has positive effects on state body image.
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Body functionality has been identified as an important dimension of body image that has the potential to be useful in the prevention and treatment of negative body image and in the enhancement of positive body image. Specifically, cultivating appreciation of body functionality may offset appearance concerns. However, a scale assessing this construct has yet to be developed. Therefore, we developed the Functionality Appreciation Scale (FAS) and examined its psychometric properties among three online community samples totalling 1042 women and men (ns=490 and 552, respectively). Exploratory factor analyses revealed a unidimensional structure with seven items. Confirmatory factor analysis upheld its unidimensionality and invariance across gender. The internal consistency, test-retest reliability, criterion-related, and construct (convergent, discriminant, incremental) validity of its scores were upheld. The FAS is a psychometrically sound measure that is unique from existing positive body image measures. Scholars will find the FAS applicable within research and clinical settings.
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Background: At a time of increasing disconnectedness from nature, scientific interest in the potential health benefits of nature contact has grown. Research in recent decades has yielded substantial evidence, but large gaps remain in our understanding. Objectives: We propose a research agenda on nature contact and health, identifying principal domains of research and key questions that, if answered, would provide the basis for evidence-based public health interventions. Discussion: We identify research questions in seven domains: a) mechanistic biomedical studies; b) exposure science; c) epidemiology of health benefits; d) diversity and equity considerations; e) technological nature; f) economic and policy studies; and g) implementation science. Conclusions: Nature contact may offer a range of human health benefits. Although much evidence is already available, much remains unknown. A robust research effort, guided by a focus on key unanswered questions, has the potential to yield high-impact, consequential public health insights.
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There is increasing evidence that gardening provides substantial human health benefits. However, no formal statistical assessment has been conducted to test this assertion. Here, we present the results of a meta-analysis of research examining the effects of gardening, including horticultural therapy, on health. We performed a literature search to collect studies that compared health outcomes in control (before participating in gardening or non-gardeners) and treatment groups (after participating in gardening or gardeners) in January 2016. The mean difference in health outcomes between the two groups was calculated for each study, and then the weighted effect size determined both across all and sets of subgroup studies. 22 case studies (published after 2001) were included in the meta-analysis, which comprised 74 comparisons between control and treatment groups. Most studies came from the United States, followed by Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Studies reported a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression, anxiety and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life and sense of community. Meta-analytic estimates showed a significant positive effect of gardening on the health outcomes both for all and sets of subgroup studies, whilst effect sizes differed among eight subgroups. Although Egger's test indicated the presence of publication bias, significant positive effects of gardening remained after adjusting for this using trim and fill analysis. This study has provided robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening on health. A regular dose of gardening can improve public health.
Physical activity in natural settings has been found in experimental research to be more restorative than physical activity in built indoor or outdoor settings, yet we lack evidence of this in everyday life. In this study we examined recalled restoration (with the 9-item Restoration Outcome Scale) of the most recent physical activity session in indoor, built outdoor and natural outdoor settings using measurement invariance tests (n=2577). We also compared the relationships between restoration, emotional well-being and frequency of physical activity in these groups. Recalled restoration formed two factors, Restorativeness and Assurance, in all groups, with equal loadings but partly varying item-specific means. Restorativeness was positively connected to emotional wellbeing in all settings but it did not explain the connection between well-being and physical activity in natural settings. Future studies could explore in more detail how emotional well-being and repeated restoration in different types of environments intertwine.
Evidence suggests that gardening can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of people experiencing mental health difficulties. There is currently a lack of research exploring the potential public health benefits of gardening among nonclinical populations. Therefore, the aims of this paper were to explore the relationship between allotment gardening and well-being from the suburban allotment-holder's perspective. Six suburban allotment gardeners were interviewed to elicit their personal experiences of allotment gardening and its impact on their well-being. Transcripts were subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) with seven main themes emerging: fundamental importance of growing and valuing food; physical and mental protection; feeling connected to people, place, and time; pride, mastery, and control; pleasure of being in nature; problem solving, learning, and accepting; acting on values. Parallels were drawn between these themes and psychological models of well-being and motivation. The research suggests that allotments are flexible environments that may enable people to meet a wide range of individual needs, enhancing well-being. They may be a particularly valuable resource for the promotion of well-being in urban and suburban areas, where people may feel detached from nature and a sense of community. Key Words: Well-being-Allotments-Community gardens-Hierarchy of needs-Health promotion.
The vast majority of people live in urbanized areas. These offer numerous advantages, such as access to a great variety of entertainment and cultural events, services such as educational and medical centers, and opportunities for mixing with different kinds of people in lively public places. Urbanized areas also challenge residents, however, with pollution, crowding and information overload. The effort to deal with the various demands of everyday urban life taxes the physical, psychological and social resources of residents and, over time, this may impair their health. During the past few decades, environmental psychologists have initiated research into the role that the sociophysical environment plays in restoring people’s diminished capabilities. This chapter focuses on restorative environments, which promote people’s health and well-being by supporting their recovery from efforts to meet the demands of everyday life. We first discuss some basic concepts, including health, restoration and the theories that have guided research to date. Then, we move on to describe some key findings in the research area, with particular regard to the restorative potential of different settings in and around cities and their implications for urban residents’ health and well-being. The research evidence concerning environmental supports for restoration is organized into four sections: the residential context, work and school settings, care settings, and other settings. Overall, the results obtained show that restoration is more likely to occur in environments that offer contact with nature, from wilderness to a window view of trees. Most of the empirical studies we review refer to environments with natural elements and features; however, not all restorative environments offer contact with nature, and we also discuss the restorative qualities found in other settings, such as monasteries, museums and urban plazas. In covering the research on these different environments, we consider a variety of short-term psychological benefits that reflect restorative processes, such as improvements in emotional states, the ability to concentrate, and the capacity to inhibit impulsive behavior. We also consider how achieving long-term health goals, such as weight control, might be facilitated by repeated restorative experiences. The empirical evidence obtained over the past few decades offers some guidance for environmental design and planning that can boost the restorative quality of residential areas, workplaces, schools, hospitals and other settings of everyday life. We close by discussing these practical implications and by making recommendations for future research.