Take that, Bowflex. Shove it, gym membership! I’m hitting the hills, the grassy knolls, the mountains, rivers and trails. The results of a UK research study have been released, and researchers now assert with confidence that “green exercise”—that which takes you through rural or urban greenspaces—is more beneficial to mind and body than plain exercise indoors or through “unpleasant” urban spaces.
The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, examined five separate groups of 20 subjects. Each subject was monitored while exercising on a treadmill and watching a series of scenes projected on the wall in front of them. Physically, blood pressure was monitored and, psychologically, self-esteem and mood were evaluated, all before and after the treadmill run.
Researchers found that exercise alone has a positive effect all-around, significantly lowering blood pressure while increasing self-esteem and improving moods. However, both rural and urban “pleasant scenes” showed a much greater increase of self-esteem and mood over the exercise-only control group. Contrarily, rural and urban “unpleasant scenes” (trashed greenspaces, littered streets, etc.) had a negative effect.
The resulting conclusion can only be that, for one, exercise is always a good activity, but that green exercise is even better…and that trash and pollution stink even when you’re running by them.
Researchers went on to discuss the implications of their findings:
“We conclude that green exercise has important implications for public and environmental health. A fitter and emotionally more content population would clearly cost the economy less, as well as reducing individual human suffering… Thus increasing support for and access to a wide range of green exercise activities for all sectors of society should produce substantial economic and public health benefits. Such support could include the provision and promotion of healthy walks projects, exercise on prescription, healthy school environments, healthy travel to school projects, green views in hospitals, city farms and community gardens, urban green space, and outdoor leisure activities in the countryside.”
What is especially interesting is that the test subjects responded so comparatively well to two-dimensional stimuli projected on a wall. What could the difference have been if they were actually running through a green field or wooded trail?
We can draw several conclusions from the study, not least of which is to keep doing everything we can to increase and improve our green spaces, from picking up litter to installing renewable energy systems and taking cars off the road. We need to maintain the rural beauty that makes America famous and so damn livable and lovable. We also need to keep fighting to de-pave our urban centers and preserve what green spaces are already there. After all, which would your rather jog through: a yellow-lined parking lot or a tree-lined park?
Via Utne Reader
Photo Credit: Glam & Fit Sugar