I grew up hearing my parents constantly telling me and my brothers to “go outside and get some fresh air.” It looks like they were on to something.
Exercise is well known to provide physical and psychological health benefits. But where we exercise may determine how much health benefit we get. Emerging scientific evidence is revealing that green exercise, which is defined as exercise done in a natural outdoor environment, has additional positive health effects compared to indoor exercise.
Green exercise can include playing in local parks, walking on the beach, gardening in the backyard, kayaking in the ocean, fishing in the river or hiking on a nature trail, to name just a few. All these natural environments have additional health benefits compared to indoor exercise, but research published in Environmental Science & Technology found that exercising in green areas with water were the best for our health.
Just how good is green exercise for our health? A review published in Extreme Physiology and Medicine found that, compared with indoor exercise, green exercise produces greater increases in our energy, happiness, self-esteem and concentration; and larger decreases in our levels of tension, confusion, anger, depression, blood pressure, stress and perceived exertion. People also report more enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor physical activities, and they have a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date.
Researchers from the University of Essex found that just five minutes of green exercise has health benefits. Looking at men and women of different ages, they found that the physical and mental health benefits were particularly strong in the young and the mentally ill.
The take-home message is to try to find time to incorporate green exercise into your daily routine — even just a five-minute fix a day — because it will have positive health effects. Green exercise may be nature’s energy drink — and add some blue to your green exercise for even more health benefits.
ASK FIT LIFE
How can I stick to my New Year’s resolution?
If your motivation is already sinking on your well-intentioned New Year’s resolution, you are not alone. Even when you have the best intentions, motivation can ebb and flow every few days. According to a YouGov Omnibus survey, just one week into the New Year, 33 percent of Americans have either broken their resolution or cheated a few times.
There is no “secret” formula to being successful at your New Year’s resolution. It is hard work to change our behaviors — we are creatures of habit. Don’t lose hope, though. The good news is people who make a New Year’s resolution are 10 times more likely to change their lives than those who don’t. So the 45 percent of us who usually make New Year’s resolutions have taken the first step to success.
Fit Life, by fitness and healthy aging expert Heather Hausenblas, associate professor of kinesiology in the Jacksonville University College of Health Sciences, appears the first Monday of each month in the Outside section of The Florida Times-Union. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on JU’s Department of Kinesiology, visit http://ju.edu/chs.