Mental wellbeing

Green exercise boosts mood

A walk a day can keep the doctor away

Just a small amount of outdoor exercise each day can boost people's mood, self esteem and mental well-being, a new study has found.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that just five minutes of "green exercise" produced the biggest effect - which is good news for those who find it difficult to find the time to exercise.

In the study, UK researchers analysed data from 1,250 people taken from 10 previous UK studies, and found that outdoor activities - green exercise - quickly improved both mental and physical health.

Outdoor activities covered in the research included walking, gardening, fishing, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming.

"A walk a day should help to keep the doctor away – and help to save the country money," said Dr Jo Barton from the University of Essex. There is a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to 'self-medicate’ more with green exercise."

The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, also found that the greatest health benefits were in the young and the mentally-ill, although people of all ages and from all backgrounds benefited.

All natural environments were found to be beneficial, but exercising in an area beside water had a greater effect, and particularly helped the young and people with mental health problems.

Everyone could benefit from green exercise, suggested the researchers, and concluded that it should be developed for therapy purposes, that planners and architects should improve access to green space, and that children’s learning should include working in outdoor settings.

This article was published on Tue 4 May 2010

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