Improve your health… get a garden shed: How solitude may help lower blood pressure

They are often damp, cold and home to a rich variety of creepy crawlies.

But for a growing number of men the once-humble shed is fast becoming a home-from-home.

And what”s more, new research claims the solitude it provides at the bottom of the garden could actually be good for their health.

Healthy activity: Former Shed of the Year winner Darren Hindley turned his shed into a pub, complete with bar and dartboard

Healthy activity: Former Shed of the Year winner Darren Hindley turned his shed into a pub, complete with bar and dartboard

A study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that the peaceful retreat may help lower blood pressure.

Its author, Professor Alan White, of Leeds Metropolitan University, claims the hours spent pottering about also has a positive impact on their self-esteem.

“Men find doing things relaxing and that in itself is good for their health,” he said.

“There”s a sense of achievement that men get from starting a task to seeing it through to completion.

“Men know what a shed means and they feel comfortable.”

Such has been the growth in its popularity that communal sheds are being set up to enable men to share their love of pottering and DIY.

The “Men”s Shed”s” initiative has its roots in Australia. But 20 communal shed have already sprung up in the UK from the Lake District to Greenwich.

Lockett Inn, a shed that has been converted into a pub and was among the entries into this year

Lockett Inn, a shed that has been converted into a pub and was among the entries into this year”s Shed of the Year competition

Another entry was Pop

Another entry was Pop”s Diner, a shed that has been converted into an American style diner

Peter Baker, chief executive of the Men”s Health Forum, a charity involved in the scheme, said: “They”ve caught men”s imagination.

“Men like to potter. These are from a generation who, on Sunday afternoon, like to pull a car apart and put it together with a Haynes manual.”

There are approximately 11.5 million domestic sheds in Britain – a higher concentration than anywhere else in the world – and 1.5 million are sold every year.

Furthermore, Britons spend more than 60 million hours a week in them.

Originating from the Anglo-Saxon word scead, meaning shade, the peaceful retreat remains a place for the lawnmower and potting bench but has also been transformed into a games room and even a mini pub.

Among those who swore by them include Virginia Woolf, Rudyard Kipling and Dylan Thomas, not forgetting Benjamin Britten, whose potting shed at Horham, Suffolk, is now a Grade II listed building, one of 50 such places of special interest nominated by English Heritage.

Solitude: A man likes his shed, the research found

Solitude: A man likes his shed, the research found

The celebrated wartime engineer Barnes Wallis not only invented the bouncing bomb in his shed, but tested the prototype on his garden pond.

Sally Coulthard, author of Shed Chic, said: “Sheds are no longer neglected outbuildings or decorative afterthoughts at the bottom of the garden. They are equally successful as spaces in which to indulge creative pursuits or to make a well-considered home-from-home.”

Professor White”s study found that working men in Britain were almost twice as likely to die prematurely as their female counterparts because they struggle to talk about their health.

Pugh cartoon

They have significantly higher mortality rates which means there are too many avoidable early deaths.

His report, The State of Men”s Health in Europe, shows marked differences in health outcomes between the genders.

At any given age, men are still more likely than women to die from most of the leading causes, and in the EU men account for more than twice as many deaths a year as women between the age of 15 and 64.

He claims that sheds and the solitude they provide could actually turn the tide.

“We should use strategies that work with men in a constructive way,” he added.

John Fleming, an 92-year-old retired architect, is among more than 50 men in their fifties to their eighties who help make garden furniture at the Greenwich Men”s Shed run by the charity Age UK.

He said: “It keeps us out of mischief and out of the four walls. I”m not very keen on sitting around and talking about whether I”ve got three left legs, but I”ve probably learnt something.”