“Green Exercise” For Mental Health

happy African American woman outside
Is there such a thing as green exercise? The word green is often associated with concepts like the energy and recycling. The term that was once only applied to the environment is now being applied to our other lifestyle choices as well.

 

Green exercise is basically an activity in the presence of nature, and recent evidence shows that it leads to positive short and long-term health outcomes.

Just five minutes of exercise in a park, working in a backyard garden, on a nature trail, or other green space will benefit mental health.

Findings appeared in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology journal.

The multi-study analysis assessed the best regime of dose(s) of acute exposure to green exercise required to improve self-esteem and mood (indicators of mental health). The research used meta-analysis methodology to analyze 10 different studies involving 1252 participants.

Responses for both intensity and duration showed large benefits from short engagements in green exercise. Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generated greater effects. Both men and women had similar improvements in self-esteem after green exercise, though men showed a difference for mood.

Age groups: for self-esteem, the greatest change was in the youngest, with diminishing effects with age; for mood, the least change was in the young and old. The mentally ill had one of the greatest self-esteem improvements. This study confirms that the environment provides an important health service.

The largest positive effect on self-esteem came from just a five-minute dose.

Tips For Adding “Green Exercise” In Your Day:

    • Take a walk or ride a bike in the park.
    • Lacking a park, take a walk or ride a bike outdoors on a tree-lined street. (If you live near a body of water, lucky you — don’t waste the opportunity!)
    • Start a small garden in your yard.
    • Create a simple stretching routine that you can do outside on your deck or patio.
    • If you work in an indoor environment, try to get outside during lunchtime for some walking or stretching.