Get fit and lose weight for free – no gym fees!
Plus you get to go out in nature and help your local community as well.
by Bronwyn Slater
Green Gyms are an initiative set up by a group called The Conservation Volunteers (a community volunteering charity) in the UK. There are now over 60 gyms all over the country. Green Gyms provide people with a way to enhance their fitness and health while taking action to improve the environment at the same time. They enable people to get fit who would not normally attend a conventional gym or sports centre.
Green Gym groups meet at least once a week and do between 1 and 4 hours of conservation or gardening work. All participants are volunteers. The sessions take place outdoors where volunteers carry out tasks such as the following – many of which come from the local council:
- planting trees
- clearing scrubland
- path building
- sowing meadows
- establishing wildlife ponds
- mending fences
- taking care of cemeteries and manor grounds
- digging drainage ditches
- digging allotments
- picking up litter
Health and fitness benefits:
The emphasis of Green Gyms is very much on health and fitness. Volunteers are assigned tasks based on their physical abilities and level of fitness when they join. They are encouraged to do warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after each session.
Studies have found significant improvements in cardiovascular fitness as well as improved muscular strength among participants, and there was a waist-to-hip ratio decrease in the first three months. Almost a third more calories can be burned in an hour of Green Gym activities than in a step aerobics class. Some GPs actually prescribe Green Gym sessions to patients to encourage them to improve their health and wellbeing.
Social and Mental Health benefits:
A study found significant improvements in participants’ mental health in the first 3 months of joining a Green Gym, and there was a decrease in depression scores during the same period. Green Gyms also enhance mental wellbeing through increased contact with nature.
Taking part in a Green Gym is free. It allows you to meet new people, socialise and help transform your local area, as well as learn new skills. It gives people a chance to contribute something positive to their community.
If you’re interested in joining a Green Gym or would like to start one yourself you can contact The Conservation Volunteers here on their website.
This article is part of the Creative Commons and is free to publish under a cc licence.