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"Green exercise” improves mental health; self esteem--study

The study reinforces the need for people given to tensions, frustrations, mental problems and those leading a sedentary lifestyle to indulge in “green exercise” for five minutes.

According to a novel study, a short work-out in natural settings is not only more engaging and mentally stimulating, but goes a long way in enhancing the mood and giving a tweak to ones self esteem.

Lead author of the study Jo Barton from the University of Essex stated, “We believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with green exercise.”

Study details
In a bid to determine whether environment provides an important health service the researchers analyzed the data of 10 previous studies carried out in England involving 1,252 people.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate whether different outdoor activities like running, hiking, swimming, biking, walking, farming or gardening in natural surroundings trigger relaxation responses deep in the brain to have a positive effect on the mental and physical well being of a person.

The researchers took into account factors like age group, gender, mental health status, and type of habitat.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate whether different outdoor activities in natural surroundings trigger relaxation responses deep in the brain to have a positive effect on the mental and physical well being of a person.

Findings of the study
The study found that the mood and self esteem of all the participants, irrespective of age or gender improved in the green surrounding.

However, the benefits were more pronounced in the youngest and those suffering from mental disorder.

Moreover, the presence of water bodies in green settings generated a greater positive effect.

Both men and women had similar improvements in self-esteem after physical activity in natural setting but the men showed a lift in the mood too.

Co-author of the study, Jules Pretty stated, “For the first time in the scientific literature, we have been able to show dose-response relationships for the positive effects of nature on human mental health.”

Implications of the study
The study reinforces the need for people given to tensions, frustrations, mental problems and those leading a sedentary lifestyle to indulge in “green exercise” for five minutes.

Jules Pretty stated, "Employers, for example, could encourage staff in stressful workplaces to take a short walk at lunchtime in the nearest park to improve mental health."

According to Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, using the natural terrain as a gym even for a short exercise stint can reap health benefits for those mentally disturbed.

He said, "It's important that people experiencing depression can be given the option of a range of treatments, and we would like to see all doctors considering exercise as a treatment where appropriate."

The study appears in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.