DOSE visits the world’s first biophilic gym, designed to measure the impact of exercise on mood, anxiety levels, attention span and mental performance (with a little help from Tarzan)
I’m cursing my laptop, watching its loathsome wheel spin while attempting the simplest of tasks. I consider hurling it at the wall, but if I don’t leave now I’m going to be late for a nature inspired gym class aimed at reducing stress.
It doesn’t get off to a great start. I take the tube to Shepherd’s Bush, punch in the post code and faithfully follow my little blue arrow to my destination. And what does it tell me to do? Take the A3220 by foot to my almost certain death.
I eventually make it in time, unaided by my ‘smart’ phone. I breathe a sigh of relief on entering a green, nature inspired space that transports me to a woodland glen. They call it a “biophilic environment”. Biophilia is man’s innate connection with nature, biophilic design is an attempt to reunite indoor and outdoor worlds through the use of natural materials, colours, scents and sounds.
Imagine a jungle gym, but for adults, where fitness is a form of play set to a background playlist of bongo drums. We even have our very own Tarzan in the shape of Matt Morley – a multi talented fitness instructor, trail runner, swimmer, surfer, martial artist and yogi.
I’m handed a questionnaire to assess my current mood. “Stressed at situations beyond your control?” Yes. “Agitated?” Yes. We’re also given a quick concentration test that I don’t manage to complete but I’ll get another chance at the end. My answers will be submitted to the uk active Research Institute as part of a study, evaluating the impact of exercise in this environment on wellness. It’s working for employees in Silicon Valley…
We take off our shoes (to be at one with nature) and start stretching on a green carpet, designed to resemble grass. There’s a giant forest wall mural at the back and functional training equipment such as; rope, timber structures, hoops and medicine balls in the style of boulders. Even the air is special thanks to an abundance of healing vegetation. The same plants chosen by NASA to provide purer, cleaner air for space stations. Some even make oxygen at night…
After ten minutes of rotating the shoulder cuffs, activating the scapular muscles and waking up the wrists and fingers to prepare us for primal movements, we start crawling across the room. First like a cat, then like a bear. It’s harder than it sounds…
The workout itself consists of rope climbing, stretching and lengthening the body over a wooden beam. Squatting while holding what looks like a weighted see-saw. Press ups on hoops (a bit like TRX training) and abdominal crunches while clutching medicine balls.
We perform the exercises at each station for roughly 20 seconds and do the circuit 4 times. The first and second at a moderate pace, the third in slow motion and the fourth, very fast that helps to work up a sweat and quite a thirst. I help myself to some Sibberi Tree Water, made of tree sap. It tastes a bit like maple syrup (other flavours include birch and bamboo). It apparently contains 4X less sugar than coconut water… diet coconut water if you will. Sweet, crisp and very refreshing.
We repeat the same questionnaire and concentration test, which I’m able to finish this time. I rate myself 0 for frustration and agitation and 5 for excited, physically strong and determined. A significant mood improvement. In short, it works!
If you’re heading to Westfield for some shopping or a film, or work in the area, we recommend squeezing in a session and rewarding efforts with a tasty meal.
Tip: Biofit is a pop-up running between 09/01/17 – 03/02/17
Address: 1 Bard Road, W10 6TP
Tube: Latimer Road (Circle, Hammersmith & City), Shepherd’s Bush (Central)
Price: Trial class £10, day entry £20, 5 entries £75, 10 entires £150
This article was written by Hettie Holmes, Co-founder of DOSE