Nature & Wellness Design event

On 1 February, Biofit hosted three speakers at its pop-up showroom in west London to discuss the impact of nature and wellness design. Biofit founder Matt Morley introduced the physical and mental benefits of working out in nature, and how one of the driving aims of his Biofit concept is to “create positive spaces of wellbeing”.

The three speakers included landscape architect Lily Jencks who discussed her inspiration behind the studio’s design; Elliot Flowers from the University of Essex Green Exercise Group on the health benefits of combining exercise and exposure to nature; and consultant Despina Katsikakis talking about wellness design in the workplace.

Biofit shares these top ten ten take outs from the evening:

1. Biofit is a world first. This is the first fitness facility to combine green exercise with biophilic design in an indoor urban environment. “No-one to my knowledge has combined biophilia and an indoor gym before; we have hybridized the two by bringing the outside in. Biophilia is one of the big themes of the moment...Humans need the connection to natural landscapes, living systems and ecology.” (Jencks)

2. Bringing health to hospitals. Scientists have proven that views of a natural landscape reduce patient recovery times. The connection to natural light, changing seasons and fresh air are also crucial. Additional hospital design research has shown that indoor plants can decrease patients’ reliance on pain medication. Both patients and staff were seen to benefit from a greater sense of wellbeing through this connection with nature.

3. Plants for air quality. Plants are crucial for good air quality (as a 1989 study by NASA proved) which was a key consideration in the design of the Biofit studio. Jencks sought to create an authentic sense of place by using largely native, seasonal plants, such as ivy and ferns, as well as a select few non-native species, such as palms and Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, chosen for their prodigious oxygen producing properties.

4. A cohesive concept. Biofit’s respect for nature meant a mindful approach to sourcing materials, with priority given to the natural, responsibly sourced and sustainable. It also opened the door to multi-sensory details such as textured grass-like carpets by Interface, pine essence aromatherapy and an acoustic world music playlist.

5. Quantifiable data: Morley commissioned an innovative research study by the ukactive Research Institute and the University of Essex Green Exercise Group. They took a scientific approach to quantifying the impact on mood, anxiety-levels and cognitive function of clients before and after experiencing a Biofit class. Results of the research will be released later this spring.

6. About ‘Green exercise’: Research around activity that takes place in a natural environment has shown it has a positive effect on health and wellbeing, specifically by improving self-esteem, mood and stress-coping mechanisms. The Biofit studio is an example of how active participation in green exercise can be brought into a controlled urban environment while retaining the significant positive health effects.

7. Challenges in the world of work: Katsikakis explained that 85% of the world’s workers work in high density urban environments and we tend to spend 90% of our time indoors. When we’re indoors, 82% of our time is spent sitting down in an office which is a strong reason why 70% of the world’s workers are disengaged and uninspired and not contributing their best. For those of us that sit for three hours a day, our life expectancy is reduced by two years. And sadly, working out in the gym doesn’t make up for it. (Katsikakis)

8. The dream office space? According to Katsikakis, the three main things workers consistently want from their office are natural light, greenery or access to nature and the ability to concentrate. Interestingly, these all work together. If you introduce circadian lighting into the office, which mimics the way the sun changes throughout the day, we see improvement in sleep which has a knock on effect on productivity. Similarly, the introduction of plants into the office leads people to feeling 30% better, while boosting productivity by 6-8%. Despite this, 40% offices have no natural light and 60% offices have no greenery.

9. The future of work: For Katsikakis, it’s about bringing humanity back into the workplace so people can connect meaningfully and be more mindful about what they’re doing. In the world of real estate, this means focusing on well thought through and activated amenities - such as the Biofit studio - which has a real purpose and brings inspiration, respite and delight. It helps people perform better and improve their quality of life at work.

10. Better for all: Absenteeism costs the UK workplace £16billion per annum, and £9.8billion of that is due to stress related illnesses from working in poor environments. "o the cost of doing things differently, by reconnecting us with nature and one another, and creating work spaces that inspire us is negligent against the benefits for individuals, organizations and the economy." (Katsikakis)

Between 9 January - 3 February 2017, over 200 people visited the temporary Biofit showroom in London to experience a Biofit class. Founder Matt Morley is now seeking partnerships with forward thinking residential and commercial real estate developers, as well as those in the hospitality and spa sectors.

Nature DesignMatt Morley