Last updated on November 5th, 2018 at 10:05 am
The colour green gets a lot of attention these days. It’s usually used to denote environmentally-friendly products or services, but in this case, “green exercise” actually refers to physical activity that takes place in the greenness of nature. It can be as simple as a walk through the park or time spent gardening. All that matters is that the body is in motion and nature is in sight. A study recently published in Environmental Science and Technology has shown that green exercise leads to improved mood and self-esteem.
It’s already well documented that exercise benefits both physical and mental health. It’s also known that exposure to natural landscapes can enhance mood. Researchers at the University of Essex set out to determine whether a combination of the two could produce synergistic improvements in mental health. According to their findings, exercise and nature do complement one another. When exercise takes place in a natural setting positive outcomes are increased.
The current study, conducted by Jules Pretty and Jo Barton, examined data from 10 earlier studies to assess the effect of green exercise on health outcomes. From these studies, a total of 1,252 people were included in the analysis, allowing the authors to show that green exercise improves mood and self-esteem.
The most notable improvement for both markers of mental health occurred after only five minutes of physical activity, suggesting that green exercise imparts immediate positive effects. This is great news for those looking to fit more exercise into their daily routine. Even on the busiest of days, it’s possible to carve out just five minutes for a walk.
It turns out that all natural environments are beneficial, especially those that include a body of water. Apparently, green and blue together provide extra benefit.
Interestingly, the study also recommends that green exercise should be prescribed therapy, administered in regular doses. According to Dr. Pretty, this research is the first to “show dose-response relationships for the positive effects of nature on human mental health.”
On a larger scale, this study and others like it could influence city planners to increase citizens’ access to recreational facilities, greenways and parks.
image: Gys Van Zyl (Creative Commons BY-NC)