Reasons To Exercise Regularly in Birmingham

Introduction

With gym membership expected to reach seven million in the UK by the end of this year, many more people will soon be enjoying the benefits of exercise. And, although fitness in Birmingham is a crowded market, many gyms are offering something different in order to stand out from their competitors. For example, there are a range of bootcamp classes that are being offered by leading gyms in Birmingham. But, what is so great about exercising in Birmingham?

Brief History of Birmingham’s Public Parks

Public parks emerged in the 1830s to improve the health of the working classes living in the over-crowded conditions of the rapidly growing industrial town. It was hoped that parks would reduce disease, crime, and social unrest, as well as providing ‘green lungs’ for the city and areas for recreation.

Most of the land for public parks were either purchased by town councils or donated as gifts. A number of parks were created to commemorate a special occasion, such as Victoria Park and Queens Park for the Queen’s Jubilee. Even the area around the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) has free public park areas where wildlife and Lilly ponds thrive.

Green and Biophilic Reputation

Often referred to as the UK’s second capital, Birmingham is a part of the country that is renowned for its industry, infrastructure and bustling metropolitan areas, but what many people are unaware of is its green and biophilic reputation.

  • Birmingham features 591 parks and boasts over 8,000 acres of green space (approximately 3,500 hectares or 14 square miles).
  • 15 parks have been awarded Green Flag status (17 if you include Sutton Coldfield).
  • Around 25% of the dynamic city is green space according to Esri UK’s analysis of Landsat 8 satellite images, making it the UK’s fourth greenest city.

Forestry Credentials

  • Birmingham currently has over one million trees (equivalent to one per citizen).
  • There are 1,398 hectares of woodland (equivalent to 2,097 football pitches) within Birmingham’s 591 parks and open spaces.
  • Across the city, tree canopies cover 48.81 sq km.

Premier Parks

The centrepieces of Birmingham’s park system are the five Premier Parks. Fifteen parks have received the prestigious Green Flag Award. The city also has five local nature reserves, one national nature reserve and a number of Wildlife Trust nature reserves. The five premier parks are:

NameOutline
Cannon Hill Park1. Cannon Hill Park is made up of 80 acres of formal parkland and 120 acres of conservation and woodland plantation.
2. The park is also home to the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Centre and the mac theatre.
Handsworth Park1. Handsworth Park has over 63 acres of landscaped grass slopes, with flower beds, mature trees, shrubs, and plenty of wildlife.
2. Handsworth Leisure Centre is based in the park.
3. There is also a boating lake, with rowing boats available to hire.
Kings Heath Park1. Kings Heath Park covers around 35 acres.
2. It was the first urban park in Birmingham to achieve Green Flag status.
3. The area around the main house and conservatory features high quality seasonal bedding schemes, herbaceous borders, alpine outcrops, heather beds, trees, shrubs and a refurbished pool area.
4. Facilities include a tea room, bowling green, plant nursery and two playgrounds.
5. There is a 2 kilometre walking route through the park.
Lickey Hills Country Park1. Lickey Hills Country Park covers 524 acres and is located just 10 miles south west of Birmingham.
2. Lickey Hills has a complex and interesting geology which has created a variety of habitats, including woodlands, heathland and grassland, which are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife.
Sutton Park1. At 2,400 acres, Sutton Park is one of the largest urban parks in Europe.
2. This green space is classed as a National Nature Reserve, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.
3. The park’s terrain comprises heathland, woodland, wetlands and marshes where cattle and wild ponies graze, while there are also seven lakes to be enjoyed.
4. Located six miles north of the city centre, a number of outdoor fitness providers deliver sessions in and around the local area.

Green Exercise and Physical and Mental Health

Research demonstrates that green exercise can improve mental well-being and markers of physiological health (Pretty et al., 2003), and it may also have a useful role in primary and secondary prevention of disease. 

It has also been suggested that green exercise may help motivation to undertake physical activity by increasing enjoyment and escapism from everyday life, with both a social and entertainment value.

There is even some evidence to suggest that exercise may feel easier when performed in the natural environment. When allowed to self-select walking speed, participants tend actually to walk faster outdoors, compared to indoors. Paradoxically, they report a lower rating of perceived exertion (Focht, 2009).

Summary

From green spaces to city and country parks, as well as botanical gardens and nature reserves, Birmingham is home to a diverse range of places to enjoy exercise and nature. So, come on, get outside and enjoy the exercise and nature opportunities that Birmingham has to offer.

References

  • Pretty, J., Griffin, M., Sellens, M. & Pretty, C. (2003) Green Exercise: Complementary Roles of Nature, Exercise and Diet in Physical and Emotional Well-Being and Implications for Public Health Policy. Colchester: University of Essex; CES Occasional Paper 2003-1. [Google Scholar].
  • Focht, B.C. (2009) Brief walks in outdoor and laboratory environments: effects on affective responses, enjoyment, and intentions to walk for exercise. Res Q Exercise Sport. 80(3):, pp.611-620. [PubMed] [Google Scholar].
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