'Natural gym' helping health

The Actif Woods Wales project is holding a range of outdoor sessions to help alleviate chronic mental and physical health conditions. Organisers say simply taking gentle exercise outside can benefit those with depression, diabetes and arthritis.

Getting fit in the fresh air

The woodlands of Wales have long been know as a place to escape the streses and strains of everyday life. But can they also be good for our well-being?

That's what one group reckons - and, what's more, they are getting referrals from a wide range of patients. Nicola Hendy reports.

'Gym in the woods' helping chronic medical conditions

Those behind the Actif Woods Wales project believe simply being out in the fresh air can help alleviate common medical conditions, including depression, diabetes and arthritis.

Woodwork, plant and animal identification and fire-lighting are just some of the activities on offer at sessions in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

It's hoped the benefits of being outdoors will work alongside modern medicine to improve people's physical and mental health.

Group members in Treherbert take in the stunning scenery Credit: Actif Woods Wales / Coed Lleol
Actif Woods Wales says Mother Nature can help alleviate a range of common medical conditions Credit: Actif Woods Wales / Coed Lleol
The project is helping those with diabetes, arthritis, depression and heart problems, among other conditions Credit: Actif Woods Wales / Coed Lleol
Woodwork is just one of the activities on offer at the Actif Woods Wales sessions Credit: Actif Woods Wales / Coed Lleol

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Keeping fit... in the great outdoors

Group members warm up before undertaking gentle exercise in the woods Credit: Actif Woods Wales / Coed Lleol

Forget Mr Motivator - turn to Mother Nature.

That's the message from a group of health professionals in Wales, who say simply being out in the fresh air can benefit those with medical conditions including depression, diabetes and arthritis.

The Actif Woods Wales project is establishing woodland 'health sessions' for people with a variety of physical and mental health conditions - so far based in and around Aberystwyth and Treherbert.

Activities include gentle exercise, woodwork skills, plant and animal identification, fire-lighting - or simply taking in the natural surroundings.

Katy Harris of the Coed Lleol Partnership, which is helping to run the sessions, said: "We all know that exercise is good for us, but going to the gym isn't for everyone.

"This project has shown that walking or being active in woodlands really can improve health and reduce stress at the same time as building interests, developing skills and having lots of fun."

The project is funded by Forestry Commission Wales and the Countryside Council for Wales, and supported by supported health sector organisations including the National Exercise Referral Scheme and mental health charity Mind.