Green Exercise

Researchers at the University of Essex Centre for Sports and Exercise Science coined the term “green exercise” to describe exercising in the presence of nature. Their research on the topic found that getting outdoors has great benefits over exercising indoors.

In 2010 they reported that both intensity and duration of green exercise showed large benefits from short engagements and then diminishing but still positive returns. Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood, but the presence of water generated greater effects for both men and women. The mentally ill showed one of the greatest self-esteem improvements. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2010, 44 (10), pp 3947–3955)

In 2011 they looked at effects upon mental and physical wellbeing, health related quality of life and long-term adherence to physical activity by comparing those effects between natural environments and indoor situations. Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy. However, the results suggested that feelings of calmness may be decreased following outdoor exercise. Participants reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2011, 45 (5), pp 1761–1772)

In 2012, they wondered if viewing a natural landscape as opposed to an urban landscape beforehand would help people recover more quickly from a stressful situation. They found that this preparation had no effect on physical reactions during the stress, however, after the stress, recovery went much better for those that had viewed the natural scene. This suggests that nature can elicit improvements in the recovery process following a stressor. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47 (11), pp 5562–5569)

In 2013, they looked at one of the factors that might be driving the improvements of outdoor exercise. The examined the effects of changing the same scenery from green, to red to gray. They found lower total mood disturbance and ratings of perceived exertion with green scenery compared to gray and red. Feelings of anger were higher after exercise in red scenery compared to the other conditions. Feelings of tension, depression, fatigue, vigor, and confusion did not differ among conditions. This shows that the color green, as a primitive feature of visual sensation, contributes to the positive effects of green exercise. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (16), pp 8661–8666)

The bottom line – get your exercise outdoors in a natural setting and reap the benefits.

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