Unless we are some kind of nocturnal indoor creature, we always feel better when we can get out into the fresh air - whatever the weather. One of the new catch phrases is “green exercise
” which refers to physical exercise when undertaken in a relatively natural environment. While physical exercise is well-known to provide health benefits, there is now good evidence that viewing and being in natural environments has calming and positive mood effects.
What is green exercise?
It was the combination of the two elements of exercise and nature that led to the notion of “green exercise”. Although people and animals tend to naturally participate in green exercise, its potential role in physical and mental health has attracted increasing attention during the 2000s.
Green exercise is all about connecting people to nature through informal physical activity. At the heart of green exercise is the concept of biophilia - which literally means 'love of life or living systems'. In simple language - nature just makes us feel good.
4 important reasons why people are enjoying green exercise
- It often means being with friends and family or perhaps with a special pet. It can even be just you on your own watching and interacting with the wildlife. You will rarely return from such an outing feeling down or depressed.
- There is a certain sensory stimulation from green exercise – think of spring flowers or autumn leaves. Or it can be sounds and smells that give you the lift, not to mention just breathing in all that fresh air.
- The activity itself of perhaps walking, hiking, jogging or cycling is important too. Or you might be doing something completely different like rock climbing. Whatever it is, you should be able to enjoy the energy of the physical activity and perhaps even the exhilaration of achieving a particularly physically challenging task for the first time. Don't make it too easy for yourself. You need a bit of a challenge or a goal to aspire to.
- If you are on your own when carrying out your green exercise, use the time to reflect and meditate as you escape from the stress and strain of modern life. Everyone benefits from just clearing their heads from time to time.
A new study in the American Chemical Society's semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology
has surprised everyone with their findings, especially those with much to do but little time to do it.
They say that just five minutes – yes 5 minutes - of exercise in a park, working in a backyard garden, on a nature trail or other green space will benefit mental health.
Jules Pretty and Jo Barton from the study
explain: “Green exercise is physical activity in the presence of nature. Abundant scientific evidence shows that activity in natural areas decreases the risk of mental illness and improves the sense of well-being. Until now, however, nobody knew how much time people had to spend in green spaces to get those and other benefits.”
The good news about this is that if people who are working in an office environment all day can just make their way to a local park or green area for an absolute minimum of 5 minutes every lunch break, they can benefit.
This is very good news
If you spend a little longer than that 5 minutes and can catch some sunlight at the same time to boost your vitamin D levels, so much the better!