Green Exercise Research Group (UoE)

The home of Green Exercise research at the University of Essex


Current and recent green care evaluations


We are proud to be the evaluation partner of the Wilderness Foundation. Our research evidences outcomes of a range of programmes for young, at risk and vulnerable individuals.



We are very proud to have been evaluating Wilderness Foundation UK's TurnAround project since its inception in 2007. It is a 6-month personal development programme for young people who without intervention are likely to drift into a life of unemployment, petty crime and/or anti-social behaviour. The programme engages the young people in a combination of wilderness trails, mentoring, skills workshops and nature-based activities. Our evaluations have shown that TurnAround has positive effects on participants’ self-esteem, mood, hope, self-efficacy and connection to nature. These findings add to the growing body of research documenting “the wilderness effect”: that young people who have authentic experiences in the outdoors develop better self-esteem.

The Imbewu programme

For young people aged 13-16, the award winning Imbewu Scotland programme sows the seed of a passion for nature and rural life in underprivileged urban youth. Weeklong trails in the most remote and beautiful parts of Scotland grow participants’ love of the outdoors and interest in rural careers along with their employability and social skills. Across four phases to date, our evaluations have evidenced that the Imbewu project provides a number of psychological benefits for young people, including improvements in self-esteem, mood and hope. Our findings indicate the efficacy of Imbewu as a tool for affording contact with nature, improving the health and wellbeing of young people, and for enabling them to develop life- and employment-related skills and motivation.

The Out There Academy

Out There Wilderness Academy is a transformational programme for youth ages 13–15 who struggle with their behaviour, mood and schooling. Six weeks of outdoor alternative education followed by eight weeks of one-to-one mentoring help young people get back on track in school, at home, and in the community. Our evaluations of the previous project phases have identified important benefits for participants', including improvements in self-esteem, mood, behaviour, mindfulness and well-being, and reductions in anti-social behaviour.


Dementia Adventure- Dementia Adventure In A Box social licensing project

Dementia Adventure's three-year social licensing project aims to increase the choice of outdoor activities locally for people with dementia, supporting them to access the natural environment, which may lead to improved health and wellbeing. The Green Exercise Research Team is working alongside The Association for Dementia Studies at University of Worcester, to evaluate the processes and outcomes of this Big Lottery-funded project.

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

The Wildlife Trusts commissioned the University of Essex to conduct three-phases of work assessing their contribution to wildlife, nature and human well-being. The phases include a literature review; multi-study analysis to determine the effect of previous Wildlife Trust activities on health; and a study to more directly measure the impact of current initiatives on various health measures such as self-esteem and well-being.

For a summary document can be found HERE

Phase 3 report can be found HERE

Phase 2 report can be found HERE

Phase 1 report can be found HERE

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Brighton and Hove Food Partnership- Sharing the Harvest project

The Sharing the Harvest project is a three year, Big Lottery-funded 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.


LEAF - Open farm Sunday

Ten years after LEAF first commissioned us to run research alongside their Open Farm Sunday event, this year we re-evaluated impacts of Open Farm Sunday experiences on attendees' perceptions of farming and the functions of farms, and their wellbeing. Our report will follow.

Future Roots - The Countrymen's Club

A programme aimed at gentlemen aged 50+, many of whom may be experiencing dementia and/or social isolation, activities are tailored to the preferences of the group & needs, which can be very broad ranging and include working with animals and spending time touring the farm and discussing changes, through to picking fruit or vegetables and then cooking a meal to be shared, amongst others. The Green Exercise Research Team partnered with New Philanthropy Capital to evaluate this project, evidencing that this unique project provides a number of benefits to participants including stimulation, sense of belonging and sense of purpose, as well as benefits to relationships between participants and carers.


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)


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


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 commissioned to 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).