More than £5million is currently being spent by the National Health Service as a result of inactivity in Croydon.

Now residents are being urged to use nature as a way to reduce demand on the NHS.

London's first Natural Health Service has launched in Croydon with the aim to provide and promote activity in the natural environment to support residents’ emotional, physical and social health.

Managing director of TCV’s Green Gym Craig Lister said: “The Natural Health Service in Croydon is a great collaboration of organisations with a shared vision to improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities.”

National and local not-for-profit organisations have come together to provide a programme of nature-based activities including gardening, conservation, bushcraft, nature-based counselling, ecotherapy, volunteering, walks, running, cycling, nutrition and cookery.

Director of Wild in the City and chair of the NHS Consortium Beth Collier said: “90 per cent of the UK population live in cities - with fast paced, busy lives we can become disconnected from the natural world and the quality of our relationships can suffer.

"Research shows that grey and fast paced urban settings can be detrimental to health.

"It’s estimated that as many as 30 per cent of weekly GP appointments are not related to medical, but social issues. Gathering in the natural world to get fit, learn new skills, explore, make friends, play and relax, helps to counter modern endemics of isolation, loneliness and inactivity.”

The service opened on Saturday, September 9 in South Norwood Country Park. A month long pilot programme funded by Croydon Council will now take place to assess the service.

It is currently available to everyone over 16 years, further activities will be added for children and young people in the coming months.