Green Exercise Research Group (UoE)

The home of Green Exercise research at the University of Essex

Current green care evaluations


The Wildlife Trusts- The Wildlife Trusts contribution to Wildlife, Nature and Human Well-being

The Wildlife Trusts have commissioned the University of Essex to conduct a multi-stage study assessing their contribution to wildlife, nature and human well-being. The project consists of a literature review, multi-study analysis to determine the effect of previous Wildlife Trust activities on health, and a study assess the impact of current initiatives on various health measures such as self-esteem and well-being.

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Brighton and Hove Food Partnership- Sharing the Harvest

The Sharing the Harvest project is a three year project which aims to support vulnerable people in accessing community food growing activities to improve their physical health, social connections, skills, confidence and mental well-being. The University of Essex is evaluating the effects of this project on a variety of health measures such as self-esteem, mood and well-being, skills development and confidence over the course of the three years.


Natural England and Care Farming UKPackaging the Offer for Health and Social Care Commissioners

A report  commissioned by the Natural England Outdoors for All Programme in partnership with Care Farming UK and the University of Essex Green Exercise Research Team, sets out the benefits for care farming and offers recommendations for expanding the services to health and social care commissioners. Dr Rachel Bragg is now calling on more to be done to promote the value of care farming as a viable treatment for people with a wide range of personal needs including those with mental ill-health autism, dementia and physical disabilities.

 “Care farmers provide many services in a safe, farming environment for people with a range of needs and vulnerabilities,” explained Dr Bragg. “The problem is that there is still a lack of awareness of the value of the multiple outcomes of care farm services - care farms offer health, wellbeing and social benefits simultaneously and so with the current drive for integration in health and social care service provision, care farming is especially relevant. Care farms offer meaningful activities in a farming environment and provide a personalised care that more people need to hear about.”

Suffolk Wildlife Trust- The Networking Nature Project

The Networking Nature project aims to encourage people living in Suffolk to ‘take action for wildlife’, by setting up and improving local green spaces, such as conservation areas and villager trail, for the benefit of local wildlife and also for local people to enjoy. The University of Essex is evaluating the effects of this project on individuals’ behaviour, action towards wildlife, skills and experience, confidence to create and manage habitats and knowledge sharing.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust- The Youth Outdoor Experience   

 The Youth Outdoor Experience provided structured outdoor activities in local green spaces for young people to help them build exercise outdoors into their lifestyle. The University of Essex was commissionedto evaluate the effects of the programme and found that indoor and outdoor physical activity increased and that participants experienced improvements in well-being (PDF report).  

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The Wilderness Foundation- The Out There Academy Programme

The Wilderness Foundation has commissioned the University of Essex to evaluate their Out There Academy programme. The Out There Academy is a personal development programme which targets disadvantaged young people aged 13-19 years and engages them in nature-based activities. The project provides opportunities for learning outside of the classroom, with personal development sessions and one-to-one mentoring, aimed at improving self-esteem, confidence, health and well-being, employability, skills and positive behaviour.

The Wilderness Foundation- The TurnAround Project: Phases 1-5                

We evaluated all five phases of the Wilderness Foundations TurnAround project, with phase 4 having taken place in 2013. We are currently planning for the sixth phase of evaluation. Each of the five phases have identified important benefits for participants', including improvements in self-esteem, mood, behaviour, mindfulness and well-being, and reductions in anti-social behaviour (PDF report)

The Wilderness FoundationThe Turnaround Project- Phase 6

The Wilderness Foundation has also commissioned the University of Essex to evaluate the second phase of the TurnAround Project. The TurnAround project is a 12-month personal development programme for young people who without intervention are likely to drift into a life of unemployment, petty crime and anti-social behaviour. The programme engages the young people in a combination of wilderness trails, mentoring, skills workshops and nature-based activities with the aim of improving their life changes and enabling them to enter society and become self-sufficient.


Previous evaluation partners

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Mind- The Ecominds Grant Programme 

The Ecominds Programme was part of the Big Lottery Fund's Changing Spaces Initiative, which funded environmentally-orientated projects. The environmental projects targeted people with direct experience of mental distress and helped to integrate them into the community. We evaluated the physical, social and environmental benefits of the projects involved in programme and identified improvements in participant well-being and social engagement and increases in connection to nature and environmentally friendly behaviour (PDF report). See

Care Farming UK- Care Farming Provision in England          

There are over 230 care farms providing thousands of people each week in the UK, many from the most vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of society, with vital social, therapeutic and education services, but the latent potential to do more has now been uncovered in recent research by the Green Exercise Research team in conjunction with Care Farming UK and the University of Leeds, published by Natural England (PDF report)


Dementia Adventure- Living with Dementia and Connecting with Nature.   

Dementia Adventure examined the benefits of contact with green space and participation in adventure activities for individuals living with dementia. The study aimed to determine whether green exercise enables people living with dementia to feel well and experience a temporary reduction or absence of dementia related symptoms, and also whether walking outdoors helped them to positively reframe their identity and self-worth (PDF report).

Discovery Quest- Walking and Outdoor Activity Therapy Project                 

The Discovery Quest project was set up for people whose mental health difficulties had a significant impact on the way they managed their lives. The project was run by Julian Housing Support and aimed to promote healthier lifestyles through challenging 6 month walking programmes in green and wild places. The University of Essex were involved in both short term and long term evaluation of the project and found that self-esteem, mood and well-being improved in participants from the start to the end of the programme and also after individual walking sessions (PDF report).


Liverpool PCT and The Mersey Forest- The Natural Choices for Health and Well-being Programme

Liverpool PCT and The Mersey Forest funded community projects' whom were interested in engaging people in using or improving local green spaces to promote health and well-being. Liverpool PCT and The Mersey Forest evaluated each project and we were commissioned to collate the findings from each of the project and to evaluate the health and well-being benefits of the programme as a whole. Overall the programme helped to improve well-being by encouraging people to connect with each other, the environment and the public; be physically active and work as a team; take notice of the environment; learn about nature and share knowledge and ideas; and give to the projects and to each other. (PDF report)


Essex County Council- The Generations Growing Together Project                           

We were involved in the evaluation of the Generations Growing Together Project, funded by Essex County Council. The project targeted users of community allotments throughout Essex to determine the mental and physical health benefits of contact with green space through participation in the schemes. The evaluation identified that attendance at community allotments lead to improvements in well-being, nature experience, diet and social interaction (PDF report)

RSPBTo establish a robust methodology for measuring connection to nature in children 

The Royal Society for the Protection of birds commissioned the University of Essex to establish a practical and robust method of evaluating connection to nature in children; to be used in future RSPB research. Three existing methods were piloted and the reliability and easiness of use assessed for each to determine the most appropriate scale for use with children (PDF report). See


Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) and The Sensory Trust- Let Nature Feed Your Senses (LNFYS)                           

The LNFYS project involved a programme of activities and events throughout England, aimed at getting young people, disabled groups and older people out onto farms, nature reserves, education centres and city farms to experience green space in their everyday lives. Innovative learning materials, farm visits and nature walks were developed to help these diverse groups making long lasting connections with the green space around them. The University of Essex evaluated the project and demonstrated that participants experienced improvements in well-being, self-esteem and connection to nature, whilst also feeling less stressed and adopting a healthier diet (PDF report).