Lancaster park project highlights green exercise benefits

The Greenfingers group at work. Photo by Dr Mark Christie.
The Greenfingers group at work. Photo by Dr Mark Christie.

A ‘green exercise’ project which started in 2010 as a six-week pilot is to celebrate more than six years of operation with the publication of a second research paper based upon its activities.

Williamson Park has been the focus for the Greenfingers project, which set out to investigate the physical, mental and social health benefits of participation in conservation volunteering.

The Greenfingers group. Photo by Dr Mark Christie.

The Greenfingers group. Photo by Dr Mark Christie.

A paper published in 2015 focused on the contribution of conservation work to physical health, monitoring more than 40 volunteers’ heart rate response to their ‘green exercise’ efforts.

The latest research paper has focused upon a small, dedicated band of conservation volunteers who have remained steadfastly committed to the Greenfingers project since its inception.

The paper, to be published in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture in October, highlights the project’s positive impact upon volunteers’ health and well-being as well as the immediate environment.

“Some of the volunteers have been with us from the very beginning,” said Mark Christie, from the Department of Medical and Sport Sciences at the University of Cumbria, “and so it’s exciting for me to reveal the benefits that have flowed from the project not only to the volunteers themselves, but also in terms of the park and, by association, the local community.”

“It’s a testimony to the volunteers’ dedication and hard work that the project has become such a success. For example, they have reinvigorated a moribund Friends of Williamson Park group that not only expands upon the original concept of Greenfingers as a conservation initiative, but also helps fundraise for various exciting small-scale projects around the park. These collective efforts have therefore made a significant and ongoing impact in respect of enhancing levels of personal, social and community capital.”

The success of Greenfingers appears to have encouraged other project groups around the City, including one supported by Lancaster City Council at Ryelands Park.

Mark is now looking to embark on a PhD in ‘green exercise’ and hopes to have achieved this within the next two years through a PhD by publication route.