23 January 2023

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Did you know exercising in nature is linked to several benefits, such as stress reduction, improved moods, resilience to germs, while giving you a free dose of vitamin D through dynamic workouts, all without breaking the bank?

The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) runs free outdoor volunteering sessions, transforming local green spaces through fun physical activities that give you a good workout in nature. 

The charity is backed by £2.6 million raised by People’s Postcode Lottery players to strengthen and connect communities by working together to improve local green spaces and tackle the issues that matter to them and was awarded by Postcode Earth Trust.    

Sir David Attenborough CBE, TCV Vice President and our Postcode Hero says:

The Conservation Volunteers are the unsung heroes of the environment. No one will protect what they do not first care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced.
Simply as a citizen, I want to thank you for the way you have transformed the way in which I spend my urban life… You provide not only reasons but the ability to do things. You are an astonishing organisation.” 

TCV runs hundreds of practical volunteering sessions across the country, including Green Gyms, with over 500 Green Gym volunteers offering a variety of activities to help reduces isolation while improving health and well-being.

The BBC2 Programme 'Trust Me I’m a Doctor' conducted a survey to monitor changes to the stress hormone cortisol in separate groups of participants taking part in Green Gym. 

The findings showed clear mental health benefits, with reports showing reductions in anxiety and feelings of stress. 

Other benefits include reduced heart rates, a great low-impact way to exercise your whole body, a way to meet local people, learn new skills, as well as improving a local green space for people and wildlife. 

Activities include planting trees, growing food, creating wildflower meadows, managing woodland, and more – all under the guidance of highly trained TCV project leaders.   

Let’s hear from the volunteers.

Steve and Liz have been the longest-serving volunteers in the Green Gym at Hollybush Conservation Centre, Leeds.

Steve, a professional gardener, joined the gardening group in late 2014, but after a serious back injury, he was forced to look for less physical work. Part of his rehabilitation was to volunteer at the Green Gym, so that he could enjoy gardening again and share his expertise.  

Steve says:

"Being a gardener was some of the happiest times of my life. I wanted to recreate some of those good times by coming to Hollybush. My family was never the type to talk about our issues. So, when I was able to spend time with and chat to Liz, it helped my recovery.” 

Liz was already a volunteer when Steve joined; the duo developed a strong friendship bond by working together at Hollybush Green Gym. 

Liz says:

Physical activity and connecting over a task can help people to open up about their feelings, helping them to cope with daily challenges.” 

David, a single dad to Joseph, felt isolated and wanted to improve his health and well-being when he joined Green Gym activities in Leicester. Green Gym opened new doors for him, enriching his life beyond being a devoted dad. 

His creativity is demonstrated in the garden he made practical, useful equipment and up-cycling materials on the site. Skeptical at first, he became one of the key volunteers demonstrating brilliant leadership and organizational skills.

David, now a TCV volunteering officer, says:

“I have made new friends and learned to deal with people that I would not usually get on with. It is nice to feel comfortable in a group.” 

It is important to find ways to beat the winter blues by getting outdoors for fitness or to clear your head.

You can join thousands of people and communities across the UK and connect to nature while making new friends through caring for and protecting your local green space. Find your nearest Green Gym or engage in similar activities in your garden or volunteer at your local green space.