LED BY JULES Pretty, a researcher from the University of Essex, a team of scientists in the UK analyzed data on 1,250 people to determine how exercise influences people when it’s done in a green space such as a park or hiking area. The study found that in as little as five minutes, subjects experienced an improvement in mood and self-esteem. The results remained consistent over a longer term, although the most dramatic leap occurred at the beginning.
In one notable study, one hundred test subjects exercised on a treadmill while pleasant and unpleasant pictures of urban or rural areas. Those who viewed the rural pleasant scenes experienced an 8.7% decrease in blood pressure, while those who viewed unpleasant urban scenes actually experienced a 3.3% increase.
The greatest improvement in health, both physically and mentally, was found in young people and people with psychological illnesses. With such a big boost in happiness, study leaders recommend employers encourage their employees to take a break from their work every now and then to get outdoors and enjoy some fresh air.
This isn’t an entirely new concept. Charles Cook, author of Awakening to Nature, has been saying for nearly 10 years that green exercise and connecting with nature gives people an endorphin high that helps them achieve a sense of physical well-being. It can even help them sleep better.
Incorporating a little daily green space exercise into a routine is simple. For lower-impact exercise, walk to work, or ride a bike.
If you like animals, you might offer to walk neighbors’ dogs in the evenings. Even working in the garden counts as exercise.
For a more intense workout, volunteer with a group to clear hiking trails for the public or plant trees. Such rigorous activities provide lots of hands-on work, and are a good way to socialize too.