Increased Wellbeing following Engagement in a Group Nature-Based Programme: The Green Gym Programme Delivered by the Conservation Volunteers
TCV’s Green Gym volunteers completed demographics, health characteristics and the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Short-Form Scale on there first session with the Green Gym. Then provided follow up surveys on average 4.5 months later. There were significant increases in wellbeing after engaging in Green Gym, with the greatest increases in those who had the lowest starting levels of wellbeing. Wellbeing increases were sustained on average 8.5 months and 13 months later in those providing a follow up measure. Attendees who continued to engage in Green Gym but not provide follow up data tended to be more deprived, female and self-report a health condition. Attendees who did not continue to engage in Green Gym tended to be less deprived and younger. These findings provide evidence of the wellbeing benefits of community nature-based activities and social (‘green’) prescribing initiatives and indicate that Green Gym targets some groups most in need.
See full paper here
BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor
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