The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise.
Int J Environ Health Res. 2005 Oct ;15(5):319-37. PMID: 16416750
Both physical activity and exposure to nature are known separately to have positive effects on physical and mental health. We have investigated whether there is a synergistic benefit in adopting physical activities whilst being directly exposed to nature ('green exercise'). Five groups of 20 subjects were exposed to a sequence of 30 scenes projected on a wall whilst exercising on a treadmill. Four categories of scenes were tested: rural pleasant, rural unpleasant, urban pleasant and urban unpleasant. The control was running without exposure to images. Blood pressure and two psychological measures (self-esteem and mood) were measured before and after the intervention. There was a clear effect of both exercise and different scenes on blood pressure, self-esteem and mood. Exercise alone significantly reduced blood pressure, increased self-esteem, and had a positive significant effect on 4 of 6 mood measures. Both rural and urban pleasant scenes produced a significantly greater positive effect on self-esteem than the exercise-only control. This shows the synergistic effect of green exercise in both rural and urban environments. By contrast, both rural and urban unpleasant scenes reduced the positive effects of exercise on self-esteem. The rural unpleasant scenes had the most dramatic effect, depressing the beneficial effects of exercise on three different measures of mood. It appears that threats to the countryside depicted in rural unpleasant scenes have a greater negative effect on mood than already urban unpleasant scenes. We conclude that green exercise has important public and environmental health consequences.