It’s a reason to leave the house and it lifts the depression. You are achieving something and you meet new people.
Charlotte, Green Gym volunteer.
This Blog has been written to show TCV’s support, along with 19 other organisations, for a Nature and Wellbeing Act – to put nature at the heart of decision making and to ensure that people have greater access to nature for the benefit of their health and wellbeing.
There are many reasons people join their local Green Gym – a referral from the doctor, an advertisement at the job centre, a chat with an existing Green Gymer – the range is broad. The reason people stay, however, is community: the genuine welcome; the place you go where you are not judged because of your appearance, ability or situation; the place where your friends are, and yes – that place is outdoors and in contact with nature. People and nature: it’s a powerful contribution. The people in this short video explain the simple benefits.
It is a well and long known fact that being outdoors, communing with nature is good for your health and wellbeing. There is something instinctive in this, driven by the effects that you feel when in contact with nature. What is powerful about a Green Gym, however, is that you belong to a group of people that create, manage and maintain community spaces. It gives you something you can point to and say: “We did that, and I contribute my time and energy to making this beautiful, accessible place”. If being active in the outdoors is good for your physical and mental health, it is matched by the feelings of euphoria and self-esteem you feel as part of a Green Gym. Giving is good for you.
…the woodland setting helped me feel relaxed. It was silent and without lots of people and it helped me feel less anxious (at a time that I was really struggling with anxious thoughts and feelings). I enjoyed the privacy and felt safe … I felt useful for the first time in a long time.
Green Gym Volunteer, Leeds
All very well, but where’s the evidence? Like it or not, we need to be clear with the organisations that fund Green Gyms about the difference they have made with their investment. Without evidence, we cannot keep them free at point of access – a vital component of any Green Gym:
According to an independent report in July 2013 by the New Economics Foundation, the economic benefits of one person participating in a Green Gym over a year are estimated to be £7,370.19 per annum. A 1:7 Social Return on Investment if you like. The cost-savings in this case study approach included:
- Avoided prescription costs – £258.27
- Avoided medical consultation costs -£408.92
- Avoided costs of diabetes complications – £1,815
- Avoided use of alcohol outpatient treatment – £4,888
The report went on to say, that if the social benefits derived from Green Gyms were also taken into consideration (and why shouldn’t they be!), through employment for example, then the return on investment is significantly higher:
- Avoided Jobseeker’s Allowance – £2,953.60
- Avoided Disability Living Allowance – £1,092.00
- Increased tax contribution – £572.90
- Increased NI contribution – £545.94
You can isolate a particular benefit of being active in the outdoors as part of a local group. It is, however, in the powerful combination of the social, the economic and the environmental from which the greatest value can be derived. And with nature at the heart of Green Gyms, the case is strong.
The last word, goes, as ever, to the Green Gymers themselves:
Nick (name has been changed) lost his job due to depression. His GP recommended the Green Gym. Nick explains how the Green Gym helped him to regain the confidence to return to employment and now has a full-time job:
When I went out with the Green Gym I felt really good, – I found it invigorating. I started really looking forward to the next time I went out. It sustained me through the week. Being in touch with nature is very important to me. The Green Gym has also given me the stamina to be able to do the job I am doing now.
Feeling inspired by nature? I would encourage you to visit the campaign site and get involved. Tweet, share on Facebook and write to your MP ahead of the election and join the call for an ‘Act for Nature’.
Dominic Higgins, Policy Manager, TCV