Forget the gym. If you want to elevate your mood and self-esteem while exercising, think green… and blue.
In a previous article, Walking Your Way to a Healthier Mind, Body, and Soul, I wrote that walking outside is a good way to calm and declutter your mind and let your thoughts roam freely. A recently published study by Jules Pretty and Jo Barton of the University of Essex (U.K.), as reported by the Environmental Science & Technology Journal, says that there is evidence to support the claim that green exercise — that is physical activity in the presence of nature — leads to positive short and long-term health outcomes.
In a study of 1,252 participants, both men and women had improvements in self-esteem after green exercise. The greatest change was in the youngest participants, with diminishing effects as we age. With regard to mood, the smallest change is in the young and the old; and the mentally ill, as a group, had one of the highest self-esteem improvements.
The best news of all is that the study showed that every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood, with water generating the greatest effects. In a meta-analysis of ten studies, researchers found that getting outside and moving for as little as five minutes at a time remarkably improves both mood and self-esteem.
The study confirms that the environment provides an important health benefit. The Journal further reported that several years ago, Jules Pretty and his colleagues had volunteers exercise on a treadmill while watching scenes projected on a wall. Participants who watched pleasant environments showed greater improvement in blood pressure and mood, and thereby increasing the positive effects of exercise, than those who watched unpleasant scenes or just exercised.
If you are a busy person living in a stressed environment, take a few minutes each day to go green and reap the rewards. Even a few minutes can change your perspective.
- Take a walk or ride a bike in the park.
- Lacking a park, take a walk or ride a bike outdoors on a tree-lined street. (If you live near a body of water, lucky you — don’t waste the opportunity!)
- Start a small garden in your yard.
- Create a simple stretching routine that you can do outside on your deck or patio.
- If you work in an indoor environment, try to get outside during lunchtime for some walking or stretching.
- Play outside with your children, or with the pets.
- If you exercise indoors, bring the outside in, with plenty of plant life or an indoor garden, or position yourself in front of a window with a pleasant view.
- The gym has it’s place, but going green will provide added mood and self-esteem boosters.
Ah, mother nature. She’s worked things out pretty well.