'Social prescriptions' may ease pain more than popping a pill, new research suggests.
Sufferers of long-term conditions such as diabetes or osteoporosis report better pain management after doing activities like gardening or attending dance clubs, a study found.
Such classes also help patients feel less socially isolated, while boosting their self-esteem and independence, the research adds.
Study author Dr Suzanne Moffatt from Newcastle University, said: 'The findings demonstrate that social prescribing, such as offering someone with heart disease the opportunity to take part in a gardening club, does work.
'People who took part in the study said social prescribing made them more active, it helped them lose weight and they felt less anxious and isolated, as a result they felt better.'
Patients report better pain management after doing activities like gardening (stock)
Regularly volunteering more than doubles your protection against dementia, research revealed back in May.
Researchers have found giving back to your local community for just an hour a week prevents the mental health disorder.
Volunteering on a regular basis is thought to keep our minds sharp as it requires we engage our thoughts, the researchers said.
Study author Yannick Griep, from the University of Calgary, said, '[Volunteering] brings a structure to the day. It offers social contact with people outside of our family. It makes us feel like we're making a meaningful contribution to society.'