Ecotherapy & Green Exercise
Ecotherapy is an umbrella term for nature-based methods of physical and psychological healing. People are supported to be active outdoors doing gardening, food growing, farming or in nature conservation work. As a medical intervention ecotherapy improves mental and physical health, saves money and improves people’s lives.
Green Exercise simply refers to physical exercise undertaken in natural environments. Physical exercise is well known to provide physical and psychological health benefits. There is also good evidence that viewing, being in, and interacting with natural environments has positive effects, reducing stress and increasing the ability to cope with stress, reducing mental fatigue and improving concentration and cognitive function.
For the first time in human history more people live in urban areas, which are growing faster than any other form of land cover. Access to green spaces is essential to people’s lives: a place to retreat from busy, stressful work, and a way to re-connect with nature. People are becoming increasingly isolated from nature and for many the urban environment is the only arena for such contact they do have.
More than half of the world population already live in urban areas and this will only increase as Asian and African regions are further urbanised. This is good for the environment; urban transport infrastructure is more energy efficient and pollution is reduced, and wildlife in rural areas is undisturbed by development. However, living in a concrete jungle isn’t good for your health. Increasingly it is recognised that human well-being and ecological well-being are interlinked.
Cities need green spaces to temper the chaos, and the mental health benefits of urban refuges are very real. People need to have quiet sanctuaries: places far from the maddening crowd. 25% of the UK workforce work in an office. Office workers need a lunchtime excursion to a city square or local park to calm the nerves and soothe the soul before returning to the impersonal barren wastes of the typical office.
People in cities have increasingly become divorced from nature and they need to reconnect. This nature connection is important to people of all ages but is particularly important for people at risk of developing a mental health problem or for those who need support to manage an existing problem. Ecotherapy, community gardening and social farming allow people not only to reconnect with nature but also with each other. School children, those patients recovering from chemotherapy, or former addicts rehabilitating from substance dependence, can also benefit from ecotherapy.
The Green Gym concept is a registered trade mark and was created by TCV and Dr. William Bird. It was piloted as an ecotherapy by Sonning Common Health Centre in 1997, and by Brighton and Hove Health Authority in 1999. The Green Gym is unique amongst other environmental projects in that it aims to improve an individual’s health and wellbeing. The Green Gym has been the subject of three independent evaluations by Oxford Brookes University Centre for Healthcare Research and Development.
The Green Gym enables individuals to improve their health through involvement in practical conservation activities. It offers conservation work instead of a conventional gym and promotes mental health through time spent in green spaces. It is simply a fantastic way of keeping fit and reconnecting with nature, while helping others. 100% of participants surveyed by a National Evaluation agreed that taking part in a Green Gym boosted their health, self-worth and their confidence.
At a Green Gym you will learn new skills, get active outdoors, have fun, meet like-minded people and do something healthy. Pulse raising, mobility and stretching exercises before gardening prevent injury and make the exercise more effective, so we begin with a few minutes of gentle warm-up exercises to get muscles warmed up.
The Green Gym supports the Five ways to Wellbeing.
Our programme is suitable to any fitness level and there are various jobs and tools to try. Everyone works at their own pace and is free to rest as they wish. There is a relaxed atmosphere at a Green Gym and plenty of time to socialise. Activities range from gentle weeding and pruning, to digging and constructing new features.
About half-way through our sessions, we also stop and like a chat and a cuppa too. Each session ends with a cool down of gentle stretching exercises to prevent stiffness.
Come and join us for your free green “workout” and gardening experience.