Green Gym Volunteering: Case Study
The Green Gym scheme was set up by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) and has been widely copied by local authorities and other organisations. The twin aims of a classic Green Gym scheme are to:
- Inspire people to improve their health
- Teach them to improve their local environment.
Experienced leaders, called Volunteer Officers or VOs take their participants, on a regular basis, through a set of practical projects dictated by the environment they are working in. These ‘outdoor jobs’ are designed to help improve the strength and stamina of the gym members, give them practical experience and skills and change their local green spaces for the better.
Why Join A Green Gym?BTCV has commissioned research from an independent team based at Oxford Brookes University that shows that Green Gym participants gain physical benefits from their exercise, including better long term health and mental health benefits such as increased confidence and better sleep and lower levels of anxiety.
Because Green Gyms are structured to offer a range of tasks, they also provide a range of benefits. For those who are already fit and strong, there’s the chance to indulge in high intensity exercise from the beginning, but for people not used to any regular exercise, or who are recovering from injury or illness, there are much lower impact activities that will allow them to boost their strength and stamina before tackling more intense projects. This means that different benefits are felt by different participants.
One of the main reasons that participants give for taking part is that ‘Green Gym is its own reward’. In other words their experience of working outdoors in the countryside, seeing plants and animals, being part of a team and having fun are actually more important than physical health gains, although when most participants join a Green Gym, it is health reasons that they cite for coming along!
Who Can Green Gym?Anybody, from children, with adult supervision, during school holidays, through to adults who are unemployed, or retired and those who are recovering from illness or injury and wish to take their health to a better level.
As a Green Gym volunteer you are expected to:
- Pay attention to your own health and safety and that of others
- Wear sensible clothing for the activities the group will attempt that day
- Bring water and food if requested (some gyms have lunch provided, others bring a dish each to share, others still ask participants to bring a packed lunch)
- Tell the VO if your health has changed since your last Green Gym visit
- Follow the VOs orders to the best of your ability at all times.
Some Green Gym participants go on to become VOs.
Volunteer Officer For Green Gym ProjectsA VO is responsible for: planning projects, including risk assessments and site surveys; leading and assisting groups of volunteers; administrative duties such database management and blogging about the Green Gym activities.
VOs should have a lot of enthusiasm for the environment and a full driving licence. Other training will be provided to them, notably community group training, first aid, project planning and exercise training.