In conjunction with the Green Gym and BBC Trust Me I’m a Doctor, Prof. Angela Clow and Dr. Nina Smyth, from the University of Westminster, investigated the impact of the Green Gym on participants’ mental and physical health.
Following weekly 3-hr participation in the Green Gym over 8-weeks, participants reported higher levels of well-being and lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Statistically significant differences and medium to large effects were observed. Participants 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 to 35% in those that reported even more enjoyment with the Green Gym.
A bigger cortisol awakening response helps you deal with the demands of the day and is associated with better cognition, balance and health. The results highlight that the way we feel and our physiology can be improved by stress-reducing activities that we enjoy.
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