Green Gyms are fun, free to the user outdoor sessions, where participants are guided in practical activities such as planting trees, sowing meadows and establishing wildlife ponds. Each Green Gym runs for 3 hours once per week, normally in parks or other green spaces, but can be developed in small urban areas too. Green Gyms were established by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and GP William Bird in 1997, and are now running in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
"Green Gym helped me to regain the confidence to return to employment and I now have a full-time job" Green Gym volunteer - Portslade Green Gym, East Sussex
The emphasis of the sessions is on health, fitness and wellbeing, improving both physical and mental health of the volunteers. Volunteers warm up and cool down in preparation for a range of light to vigorous activities to suit all abilities. Green Gyms enhance mental and physical wellbeing through increased physical activity and increased contact with nature, the social benefits of group activity, and helping people contribute something positive to their community. TCV work closely with partners, including mental health charity Mind, to continually innovate and ensure that Green Gyms maximise the benefits for participants.
100% of participants surveyed during the current National Evaluation agree that taking part in the Green Gym has benefited their mental health, boosting self-esteem and confidence through learning new skills and completing new tasks
GPs can now prescribe Green Gym sessions to patients to encourage them to improve their health and wellbeing. By taking part, participants are encouraged to make positive changes to their lifestyle in addition to the Green Gym activity, such as walking and cycling more and improving their diet. Green Gyms are also great for increasing social interaction and activity, allowing participants to meet new people and learn new skills together, developing community resilience.
Last year the Green Gym was awarded a three year Health and Wellbeing Award from the Royal Society for Public Health. Green Gyms have been assessed by the New Economics Foundation as delivering £4.02 social return on investment to every £1 invested. This year the Green Gym programme was officially validated at Level 2 on Nesta’s Standards of Evidence, confirming the programme’s positive impact on health, wellbeing and social cohesion.