AD| If you had to sum up the received wisdom on how to live a happy, healthy lifestyle, it would probably go along the lines of eat right and get plenty of exercise. Sound advice to live by right? And clearly a philosophy that millions of people are more than happy to live by, judging from gym membership figures and participation in organised sport, not to mention high levels of interest in healthy diets and nutrition.
But is there perhaps a third ingredient to the recipe for lasting wellbeing? For many years, a small but dedicated number of scientists, nutritionists and psychologists have been advocating the benefits of ‘getting back to nature’ as an integral part of improving health and wellbeing.
Studies have favourably compared the benefits of exercising outdoors to indoors, the impact that feeding our innate biophilia – love for or sense of connection with the natural world – can have on our mental health, and of course the advantages of eating fresh, unprocessed, naturally sourced wholefoods.
Hawkstone Hall – a luxy wedding venue nestled in the heart of Shropshire – have taken all of this on board in the development of a new health and wellness offer that will be opened in Spring 2022. The Garden Spa, located adjacent to their luxury hotel, exemplifies all the key principles of biophilic design – bringing elements of the natural environment indoors specifically to enhance their wellness offer.
So, for example, the Orangery Gym features large windows to give unimpeded views of the beautiful grounds, the perfect pick-me-up as you work out indoors, and is packed with plants and palms. Hawkstone Hall provide outdoor hot tubs for relaxing in, and the surrounding Shropshire countryside is ideal for taking an energising ramble or run in some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.
Here are three reasons why Hawkstone Hall has made connecting with nature a cornerstone of their health and wellbeing offer.
Natural environments reduce stress and improve mood and self-esteem
Numerous medical studies have demonstrated that the physiological causes and symptoms of stress are lowered simply by being in a natural environment, as opposed to being cooped up indoors at work or at home. For example, people put through stress-inducing activities and experiences have lower levels of key stress hormones like adrenalin, noradrenaline and cortisone if the activity takes place outdoors rather than indoors.
Hawkstone Hall know that high stress levels and over-exposure to stress hormones in our bodies has a detrimental impact on our health seeing as most people spend up to 90% of our lives indoors. It makes sense that making efforts to increase the amount of time we spend indoors, or at least design our indoor environments so they are more ‘natural’, would reduce the negative health impacts of stress.
We exercise better and experience lower levels of fatigue in natural environments
Another fascinating finding from studies into how we behave in natural environments compared to non-natural environments is that we are actually able to endure more physical exertion in the former and don’t get tired so quickly. This is obviously of great interest to anyone who wants to optimise the impact of their workout.
Athletes who train outdoors, for example, see their heart rates and blood pressure return to normal faster after intense periods of activity. This quicker recovery means they are able to do more and thus better boost their overall performance and physical fitness.
We get the health and wellbeing benefits of nature through sight alone
Because of findings like those outlined above, there has been a lot of debate about the relative benefits of, for example, taking exercise outdoors versus indoors. Should we in fact be discouraging people from renewing their gym memberships and taking up running, cycling or even walking outdoors instead?
But another fascinating thread to research into the psychological and physical effects of biophilia is that we don’t need to be ‘in’ a natural environment to enjoy the benefits – we can get them simply by ‘looking at’ elements of the natural world. Studies have shown, for example, that we are able to compensate for a ‘disconnect’ from nature in indoor environments, and the impact that has on heightened stress levels, if there is an attractive view out of a window, or even by introducing pictures of natural scenes or potted plants into indoor environments.
This is a key principle behind the concept of biophilic design – the fact that we can recreate our inherent connection to nature, and all the benefits it brings, through sight alone allows us to ‘bring the outdoors in’. This is a central concept to the design of their Orangery Gym, with its lush plants and extensive views over the gardens.
Their gym and spa are available for free to all hotel guests, and the facilities can also be accessed as part of day passes or membership schemes. Click here to find out more.
This post is sponsored by Hawkstone Hall
Words: Hawkstone Hall