Outdoor activity in a natural setting, like a park or forest, can cause a measurable increase in a person's mood and self-esteem. The increase is even more apparent when a green workout takes place near a lake, stream or other body of water, according to a recent study's authors.
(So next time someone tells you to "take a hike," thank them.)
Green Workout: A Little Is Enough
British researchers from the University of Essex conducted an overview of 10 previous studies involving 1,252 people. They found that even short periods of green workout -- as little as five minutes -- were enough to make a positive difference.
As time outdoors goes on past the initial five minutes, the benefits are less pronounced, indicating some diminishing returns, though there was also a big benefit to spending all day outdoors.
Who Benefits from Green Exercise?
The positive effects of green exercise were most profound among younger people and among the mentally ill, leading researchers to conclude that outdoor activity may be especially important for these two groups.
Another important conclusion is that if more schools, employers and urban planners created green, landscaped outdoors space where people can take a walk or engage in other exercise, it would greatly benefit community health.
Green Workout: Take it Easy
The exercise doesn't have to be strenuous -- walking, boating, horseback riding, gardening, biking and fishing each enhanced mental health. And, perhaps best of all, the effects are almost immediate.
The study is published in the April 21, 2010, issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.