Woodland games mean fitness for all age groups

Issue date: 12 March 2009

Playing quoits in Swindon's green spaces Enjoying activities in green spaces and fresh air can have benefits for young and old alike, according to researchers from the University of the West of England. They are running an evaluation of the 3G Woodland Games programme in Swindon to find out how effective the project is.

The research is running alongside the three-year Natural England-funded project to see if it is encouraging healthier lifestyles and increasing the level of physical fitness across different age and social groups. In particular, the researchers are studying the effect on the quality of life of the local community and whether outdoor activities encourage independence in older age.

The 3G Woodland Games are part of Natural England's Green Exercise programme aimed at increasing levels of physical activity and people's connections to their local green spaces.

The games are open to all generations - children and young people, families and older people. The project encourages the use of local woodlands for walks and also for less usual activities such as frisbee golf, orienteering, cani-cross or running with dogs, making wooden rounders bats for rounders, rock-it-ball, ultimate frisbee and yoga.

Professor Lamine Mahdjoubi of UWE's School of the Built and Natural Environment said, “We want to find out whether the Woodland Games are engaging people who would not normally take part in regular outdoor activities in local woodland, green and open spaces. These activities can provide a point of contact for groups such as mums with babies or older people, and can lead to them making new friends and overcoming feelings of loneliness. Also, what are the barriers to getting involved, and how well does the programme engage with different age, gender, ethnic and disability groups.”

Researcher Richard Akplotsyi has been studying the first phase of the project, which includes programmes of walks for people of similar age groups.

He collected feedback from participants like the 30 year old mum who said, “This is a great opportunity for families to share in activities - parents and children. It has just taken me back to the days when we used to do lots of climbing of trees and running on the green to keep fit.”

An 86 year old woman commented, “I have been doing a lot of walking in the city since when I was young, but walking through the green pathway in a group is more interesting to me than a bus ride to the City centre.”

Walks last from 45 minutes to an hour, using a range of different routes and pathways depending on abilities.

The 3G Woodland Games activities are co-ordinated by Simon Pitman of Swindon Borough Council's Great Western Community Forest. For more information visit http://www.forestweb.org.uk

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