'World's first biophilic gym' to launch as London pop-up
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'World's first biophilic gym' to launch as London pop-up

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Our society needs to calibrate our relationship with the natural world, which is leading to a surge in this kind of biophilic, nature-inspired design

Landscape architect Lily Jencks has designed “the world’s first biophilic gym” for fitness concept Biofit.

Described as “an organic gym concept for big city life,” the pop-up health club will open in west London from 9 January to 3 February 2017.

With a brief to “bring the outside world indoors”, Jencks has created an environment where gym-goers can work out amid natural vegetation, colours, materials, shapes, scents and sounds.

Biofit – founded by health and fitness entrepreneur Matt Morley in 2015 – has been inspired by tech companies such as Apple and Google, which are bringing air-purifying plants and natural landscaping into their offices to reduce employee stress and improve productivity levels.

“Our society needs to calibrate our relationship with the natural world, which is leading to a surge in this kind of biophilic, nature-inspired design,” said Jencks. “This gym project is about living more intimately with the green living world.”

The architect – who has previously created ‘healing gardens’ for Maggie’s Centres across the UK, and who has collaborated with the likes of Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry – uses sustainably focused, reclaimed and recycled materials in her work, and has done so again for the gym.

The idea is that the use of natural materials and plants in a health club context will leave clients both physically and mentally fitter.

In addition to its biophilic interiors, Biofit has also developed its own range of nature-focused exercise equipment, using materials such as timber, cotton and rope. Each piece is non-prescriptive, facilitating a multitude of movements.

The focus on wellness and nature will extend to the training methodology at the gym, which combines real world exercises with mindful movement. Group classes, workshops and corporate team-building sessions will be offered, focusing on Movement & Mobility, Strength & Stamina and Play & Fight techniques.

Describing Biofit’s philosophy, Morley said: “Human evolutionary history shows we’ve been lifting, carrying, jumping, striking and crawling for millions of years, working at varying speeds and intensities according to circumstance; so we start there.

“To counteract the effects of a sedentary, 21st century lifestyle, Biofit then integrates mobility work into every session to restore range of motion and protect the joints from injury. We also use play to practice new movement skills and stimulate the neurological pathways in a fun, interactive way.”

Morley argued the biophilic gym concept can benefit the hospitality, wellness, residential real estate and corporate office sectors, as it encompasses facility design, equipment sourcing and supply, as well as ongoing training and support for coaching staff.

“We’re looking to partner with like-minded businesses around the world to deliver the Biofit experience all year round, adapting the concept to the local context in each instance,“ he said.

While the January pop up is in operation – within Notting Hill’s Unit 1 Gallery Workshop – Biofit has commissioned a research project from the not-for-profit fitness organisation ukactive, which will evaluate the impact of exercise in a biophilic indoor environment on key markers such as mood, anxiety levels, attention span and mental performance.

“Previous research into the wellness benefits of nature-inspired design has focused largely on corporate offices, schools and hospitals with findings showing positive gains in productivity, enhanced learning comprehension and increased healing rates,” said Dr Steven Mann, ukactive’s research director.

“However, to our knowledge, this is the first of its kind in a gym environment so we’re very excited to be breaking new ground and looking forward to reporting the findings.”

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Landscape architect Lily Jencks has designed “the world’s first biophilic gym” for fitness concept Biofit.
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