Our post Garden Trends for 2018 touched on the idea of “green gyms”. What exactly is a green gym and why should you seriously consider one? They revolve around this simple maxim: Don’t work out, work outdoors.

We don’t mean pack in your job and become a gardener – unless that’s what you yearn to do. Rather, there’s been a recent increase in awareness of the range of benefits gardening can provide. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 8 or 80, there’s something you can do outside that’ll benefit your health and wellbeing. Forget the dumbbells and cardio classes. Join the recreational revolution!


A range of beneficial gardening activities

In 2009 The Guardian reported that the Scottish government planned to invest over £300,000 into the establishment of green gyms. The award-winning health programme Green Gym™ is under the remit of The Conservation Volunteers and you can find more in-depth information on their website.

There was a 500% increase in the number of green gyms in London from 2011, and others have popped up around the nation. However, it’s sad to see there’s a dearth of these gyms outside of the capital. Check out the screenshot of Northern England below and you’ll see what I mean. But then again, perhaps it’s up to us to take more interest and get these free work-out sessions set up all around the UK? They’re free after all – no sign-up fees.

Green gyms


If you do find one local to you, you can expect to take part in a range of beneficial gardening activities. These may include digging and planting, sowing meadows and creating ponds. You’ll be instructed on the right way to complete the tasks, so there’s an educational element too.

The emphasis on health and fitness at green gyms is emphasised further by the inclusion of warm-up and cool-down exercises either side of the actual gardening activities.


What benefits can we expect?

The health benefits of gardening and green gyms are being extolled by the government itself nowadays. Some GPs are apparently already prescribing the gyms as a way of improving health holistically. Due to the proven physical, mental and social advantages of horticulture, the National Garden Scheme is itself calling for more medical professionals to prescribe it.

The New Economics Foundation recently created the Five Ways to Wellbeing for the government. These five elements are:

  • Connect
  • Keep learning
  • Take notice
  • Be active
  • Give


It doesn’t take much effort to see how neatly green gyms fit in with this guideline.

Some specific positives of green gyms listed on the TCV website are:

  1. A reduction in anxiety by 26%
  2. An improvement in wellness scores by one-fifth
  3. Halving of the risk of heart attack or stroke in those involved in this moderate physical activity
  4. Increased closeness to other people in the local community according to 80% of volunteers


And if you can’t access a green gym?

The benefits of gardening still apply! If you have your own garden, get into it. If not, how about helping out a friend or family member? You could apply for an allotment or work on a local community garden instead.

This webpage from The English Garden magazine shows a recent infographic drawn up by AXA PPP. It reveals how many calories are burnt per hour by just seven common gardening activities. In addition, it points out 11 body parts that gardening can strengthen.


So save yourself some cash this year. Cancel your gym membership and dig in with some horticultural activities, whether at home or with others.