The BBC2 Programme Trust Me I’m a Doctor has completed an insightful new study into the effects of different activities on stress levels. This follows a survey by the BBC team which found that “how to beat stress” was the top mental health question that people wanted the answer to.
The BBC commissioned this study, undertaken by the University of Westminster, to monitor changes to the level of the stress hormone cortisol in separate groups of participants taking part in Green Gym (structured, group based conservation activity), Yoga, Mindfulness against a control group.
The BBC chose TCV’s Green Gym due to our success in connecting people with the outdoor environment to improve health and wellbeing and tackle social isolation.
The Green Gym took place in Regents Park over an 8-week period and the results was shared on BBC2 on 1st November 2017 at 9pm in a special programme dedicated to mental health.
The University Study showed that Green Gym participants reported higher levels of well-being and lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
Participants also collected saliva samples to measure the stress hormone cortisol. As well as being stress responsive, cortisol is essential for life and a burst of cortisol following awakening (known as the cortisol awakening response) is indicative of good health.
Compared to a similar group of participants (the control group), that did not engage in any extra activity, the participants in the Green Gym group had a 20% improvement in cortisol awakening response and this was increased further in those that reported even more enjoyment with the Green Gym. Green Gym participants showed the greatest reduction in anxiety of all the groups when assessed by a validated questionnaire.
Importantly the Green Gym sessions were also enjoyed by the participants, particularly the social aspect, they enjoyed meeting friendly like-minded people who cared about each other and the local environment. Participants also mentioned a great sense of achievement at the end of each session knowing that they had improved a place to benefit wildlife and to be enjoyed by the local community.
Just 8 weeks of participation in TCV's Green Gym showed clear enhancements in the cortisol awakening response which is beneficial for health and well-being. Participants also reported marked reductions in anxiety, as well as reduced feeling of stress. This study looked at mental health, however, the physical activity and social nature of Green Gym is likely to have many other health benefits that warrant further research.
Professor Angela Clow, University of Westminster
I think the Green Gym made me feel better because of the social aspect and communing with nature. After the 8 weeks I felt noticeably calmer when a couple of crises occurred, I dealt with them in a much better way than I would have before the Green Gym. I will remember the people, the skills I learnt and the people I managed to teach. I made several good friends that I am still in touch with months after the 8 weeks finished.
Gary, a Green Gym participant
Why not join in with one of TCV's Green Gyms across the country, get fit, meet new people and transform your local environment and community.
Green Gyms are starting all the time but if there is not one near you please register your interest now by completing this simple form.