In Depth

Plant power: The Biofit organic gym concept

Matt Morley, creator of the natural fitness experience, on the many benefits of going green and bringing the outdoors in

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For the past 20 years, I've trained outdoors whenever possible rather than going to a gym – it's a far more uplifting way to begin or end my day. Recently, I started to look for ways to introduce a more natural approach to working-out in big cities. When I moved back to London from Montenegro two years ago, I set myself the task of finding a way to bring elements of the outside world in, to reinvent the indoor gym experience.

I came up with the concept of Biofit – a verdant, organic gym – and started working with landscape architect Lily Jencks, who became my interior designer. Lily specialises in biophilic design, in particular the art and science of harnessing the healing powers of plants and nature to create spaces that nourish the mind and body. Our interiors essentially layer that approach on top of the foundations of conventional gym design. 

It soon became clear that the equipment I needed to fit in with that concept didn't exist, so my uncle handmade some initial prototypes for me using locally sourced wood. Our promise is that anyone using the space will only see, touch and smell natural materials; these are tiny details, but very important ones.

Similarly with the training method, my aim was to get closer to a more evolution-friendly approach. As humans, we evolved in close daily contact with nature; movement and survival were intimately connected so while we now live in times of incomparable affluence our bodies are still designed to eat and move as nature intended.

A diet full of sugary, processed foods is the equivalent of a lack of regular movement and exercise in daily life. Both are at the root of the current global epidemics of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. With that in mind, we opt for lots of non-linear movements that are often playful, interactive and fun but with a functional, real-world purpose behind it. Our equipment connects with the interior design and the training method to create a cohesive experience.

We have a pop-up showroom in Notting Hill until 3 February during which we're running a research project into the wellness benefits of exercising in an indoor green space with the UKActive Research Institute and the University of Essex's Green Exercise Group. We're testing out a giant forest wall mural, natural aromatherapy and lots of air-purifying vegetation combined with classes covering movement, mobility, strength, stamina and play-fight techniques.

photo© Danilo Moroni

Indoor spaces with green, natural elements are proven to have positive psychological and physiological benefits, and they can reduce stress and restore concentration while improving mood. Biofit uses this insight through its sensitive use of biophilic design and adds in the countless benefits of exercise. We're hoping to bring the concept into other spaces, such as hotels and homes to recreate the benefits of bringing the outside world in for mind, body and soul.

MATT MORELY spent six years at Luxury Branding where he worked with some of the world's top hotel and real estate companies on their business and brand strategy. He then spent six years in-house as head of marketing and brand director of Porto Montenegro, a mixed-use real estate and marina development on the Adritic Coast. biofit.io

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