Turn over a new leaf to get active

Taking on small amounts of physical activity through gardening this winter could help you manage and reduce the side effects of cancer. We know treatment can affect your health in many ways – from causing anxiety to reducing mobility. But the strength and enjoyment you could get from gardening can help you start to feel more in control.

Whether you have a big back garden, your own allotment or a few pot plants, we’ve got some tips to help you start gardening. Plus, to show you how your green-fingered efforts could help you flourish, we’ve listed some of the health benefits below.

Winter gardening

Staying active is just as important in the winter months and our partner the National Garden Scheme has put together some top gardening tips [PDF] to help you do this.

From building a hedgehog house to tips for what to plant indoors we have something for every ability.


Helping you grow

Getting active through gardening could help you manage and reduce the side effects of cancer treatment in the following ways:

  • help look after your heart
  • reduce depression and anxiety
  • help look after your bones and joints
  • strengthen your muscles
  • reduce tiredness (fatigue)
  • help you maintain a healthy weight.

Find out more about the many ways you can benefit from physical activity.


Sal's winter wonders

Gardening has always been a love of Sal’s. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sal’s green-fingered passion served a new purpose.

‘Gardening helped me get control back,’ says Sal. ‘Because when you have cancer treatment, it’s so full on. To help you get active this winter we asked Sal to give us her top winter gardening tips:

‘The advice I would give is to start gently and build yourself up. Below are my tips:’

  • Plant tulips out in the garden in November, while the ground is still soft. Any earlier than that, and they could suffer fungal diseases from the soil. If squirrels are a problem, chicken wire pinned down over them, is one way of stopping them eating your precious bulbs!
  • Keep clearing leaves from path and borders. We have three large trees, an oak and two chestnut trees in the front garden, which keep dropping leaves until Christmas. We put them in a separate compost bin, which takes a bit longer to decompose, but the leaf mould you get from, after two or three years, it is almost black, and wonderful to use as a mulch. It’s so good you can even use it for seedlings.
  • Keep putting bird food out all winter. The birds need us more than ever, especially when the ground is frozen.

Sal and her husband sit in a gazebo reading Macmillan cancer information booklets.

Sal's story

Sal's story

Macmillan's partnership with the National Garden Scheme

Since 1985, the National Garden Scheme has donated more than £16.2 million to support people affected by cancer – funding 147 professional posts, including nurses and GPs. Read more about our partnership on the NGS partnership page.