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Green Gym and Trust Me I'm A Doctor

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Two people on a Green Gym

TCV’s Green Gym is to be featured in a new study commissioned by BBC2’s Trust Me I'm A Doctor.

We are delighted that TCV’s Green Gym was selected to take part in the BBC2 programme, Trust Me I’m a Doctor’s 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 people’s top mental health question.

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, Yoga and 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 were shared on BBC2 on 1st November 2017 at 9pm in a special programme dedicated to mental health.

Results

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.

I think the Green Gym made me feel better because of the social aspect and communing with nature.

Gary, Green Gym participant

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. 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 appreciated 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

Gary, one of the Green Gym participants, said “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.”

Note: The University of Westminster will be writing up a full report on this study which is planned to be published in a peer reviewed journal.