“Green” Exercise Better than a Trip to the Gym

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Exercising in nature, even for just five minutes a day, can significantly improve mood, self-esteem, and physical and mental health, reveals a new study from the UK’s University of Essex. Though the study isn’t the first to show that time spent in nature has major physical and mental ramifications, it is the only one of its kind to “quantify the health benefits” of green exercise, or physical activity done in nature, say University researchers.

The Essex scientists examined the habits of 1,252 people of different ages, backgrounds, and health conditions to determine that green exercise–including walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding, and farming–has positive effects on health, especially on mental health. While all types of natural environments produced advantages, including green urban environments, researchers noted that those that contained water resulted in greater benefits. Finally, green exercise appeared to have the strongest impact on the young and mentally ill, according to the study.

Interestingly enough, researchers speculate that healthcare costs can be reduced in part by increasing people’s access to nature and by encouraging them to “self-medicate” using green exercise. And we think that’s certainly better than a prescription drug or Rx for more time spent on a treadmill for all those common conditions stemming from poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.