Jun 052020
The Benefits of Nature for Health
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Welcome to my 'The Benefits of Nature for Health' post!

First of all, I must congratulate you for taking the time to do your research on this topic of green living. Spending time outside has positive impact on your physical, mental and overall health. 

As a qualified teacher, I am passionate about education and the impact it can have on bettering our future. It is down to us individuals to do our research and make small changes to the way we live our lives. 

These small changes are easy to make and can have a big impact on our health, the health of our family and our environment. This website is designed for everyday people looking to make these changes. Here you will learn a legitimate way to go green. 

Let me be completely transparent with you, I am not here to pitch or sell anything to you. I am here to reveal and to assist you on your journey of going green! 

Green Exercise...

The studies of human and environmental interactions usually consider the extremes of the environment on individuals or how humans affect the environment. Physical activity improves physiological and psychological well-being. However, further evidence is required to determine how different environments influence and shape health.

This review considers the declining levels of physical activity, particularly within the Western world, and the way the environment may help motivate and facilitate physical activity. It also addresses the extra physiological and psychological state benefits that appear to occur when exercise is performed in an outside environment. However, people’s connectedness to nature appears to be changing and this has important implications on how humans are now interacting with nature.

Barriers exist, and these must be considered when discussing the way to make exercise within the outdoors accessible and beneficial for all. The combination of exercise and exposure to nature and thus the ‘great outdoors’ might be used as a strong tool to assist fight the growing incidence of both physical inactivity and non-communicable disease.

Exercise Levels are Declining...

31% of the global adult populations do not exercise. They are physically inactive. The same research study highlighted that advancements in technology are one of the primary causes of physical inactivity. 

Modern-day people are so focussed on their 9-5 schedule, that when they finally get home, they are too exhausted to do anything. They get some convenient food in their belly, which is usually unhealthy and zaps them of the little energy they had and grab one of their gadgets and find something that distracts them from the important things in life.

In the U.S, Canada, the UK, Germany, Japan, and other developed countries, the concept of physical activity has shifted from outside to indoor gyms, home-based exercises, and sports halls. In general, people rarely go outside to exercise anymore. This is especially true with young generations who have grown up in the world of technology.

The study also revealed that half of the world’s population is living in urbanized cities. This means they have less green space for exercise and are exposed to poorer air quality. It can be hard to find good places to exercise when living in the city. Make the most of the opportunities presented to you to get out of the city or live in greener parts of the city. 

People have become more reliant on exercise supplements to lose weight or build muscles. This is the key misconception of consumerism - buying something won't always fix the problem. Also, the majority of the supplements available on the market contain steroids and other harmful chemicals, which have impacts on the body and our health.

Green Living and Exercise...

Green spaces not only provide a great way for recreation, but they also facilitate people to improve adherence to green living. So much so, green spaces and healthy outdoor environments lead to positive physical activity behaviors, which eventually produce greater health and wellness gains.

Green living promotes stress recovery, improves concentration, enhances thought clarity, and protects future stresses. There is a large body of research that shows physical activity when performed regularly has both physical and mental health benefits. Research studies also show that exposure to nature has excellent health benefits.

Knowing that both nature and physical activity independently improve health, the term “Green Exercise” was devised to imply the synergistic health benefits, which are derived from being active in natural or green places. Exercise environment type is particularly important to stress-reduction outcomes of serious workouts. 

Young-Female-Hiker-In-Forest-With-Man

Inside Vs Outside...

Self-paced walking exercises are one example of exercising with nature in mind. The theory is that you can work harder and walk or run faster in an outdoor environment and you may see better results because of it. The fresh is and the natural sounds of the wind blowing through the trees bring stress relief. 

Walking or running inside is more intense. You keep pushing yourself to lose more and more calories, working faster, harder, and at a steeper incline each time. This environment has the smell of a sweaty stagnant gym, the background noise of news on a TV, or a rumbling air conditioning unit and is not considered natural or peaceful.

Exercising in outdoor environments, especially in green spaces promotes your natural physical workout. Outdoor grassy fields provide more space, more opportunities for speed, less pressure on your knees, and a natural and peaceful environment. You can feel the cool fresh air brushing up against your face and hear the wind whistling through the trees. 

Improve Health...

Engaging in physical activity outdoors provides opportunities linked to raised health which is unavailable from indoor activity, like exposure to sunlight for sufficient vitamin D levels. The outdoors also improves physical activity, effort, motivation, self-esteem, and reduce negative moods such as depression, tension, and anger.

Physical Health...

We are traditionally hunter-gatherers and outdoor exercise would have been a natural part of our day. We were physically fitter and healthier, we didn't need to schedule time out of our day to get this exercise, it just happened.

Now, with the advancements in technology, everything is easy. We sit in a car while we drive to work, we touch a button to locate and communicate with another person. The easiest way to get regular exercise is to change the way we do things, for example, could you walk, run, or cycle to work?

Did you know that when we are outside we have a tendency to put more effort in when walking and we walk faster too? This suggests that exercising outside is easier, or at least perceived this way. If we put more effort into them we are more motivated and this is bound to have an impact on or physical results.

Proven physical benefits include improved heart rate, optimal blood pressure, and autonomic control. Exercising outside has also been proven to reduce stress which is calculated by measuring the physical levels of stress-related chemicals present in a person's body. 

Mental Health...

The lack of exercise results in both physical and psychological illnesses. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows that the decline in physical activity leads to a higher number of mental ill-health cases.

Research suggests that access to green spaces reduces the risk of mental illness, improves physical health, a person perception of their overall health and quality of life,

It is important to note the quality of the green space also impacts a person's mental health. For example and the environment with vast biodiversity will have a greater impact on a person's psychological health.

Reduce Stress...

Increased levels of mental stress are harmful to health and I believe that nature is the best solution for coping with stress. Exposure to green environments is relaxing and offers a substantial amount of stress-reducing properties. For example exercising outdoors reduces adrenaline hormones and improves your immune function, making you calmer, healthier, and less stressed. 

Green exercising increases natural killer cell activity that is infected with viruses and bacteria. These cells detect and control the early signs of cancer. Natural killer cells play a key role in pregnancy, fighting various diseases before and after conception.

Research studies show that a three-day trip to the forest can increase the natural killer cell activity in your body. Interestingly, it lasts for thirty days in men and seven days for women. This shows us that the effects of outdoor spaces last longer and men who would benefit from being outdoors once a month, where women ought to be spending time outdoors once per week. However, I personally believe this is the minimum amount... the more time you can spend outdoors, the better!

Hiking-Couple-Eating-Sandwiches

Improve Blood Pressure...

Compared to indoor exercise or no exercise, green exercise leads to improved blood pressure. For instance, a research study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research shows that the blood pressure of a person returns to normal quickly after working out in a natural environment compared to urban settings.

Compared to the physical activity in an urban environment that lacks plantation and vegetation, walking in the natural forest environment lowers your systolic and diastolic blood pressure too. If you suffer from high blood pressure, I recommend walking in a natural environment with high biodiversity on a regular basis.

Boost Your Self-esteem...

Spending at least 30 minutes in the green environment, surrounded by trees, clean air, and water have a positive impact on the self-esteem of a person. The biggest impact happens in the first five minutes which suggests that the outdoors instantly improves mental health. 

Every person will have access to some kind of green space. If you live out of the city, you are likely to have access to better quality green spaces than people living in the city. However, if you live in the city, do not let this prevent you from going outside because being outside will still positively impact your self-esteem and health.

Greater Social Experience...

Research shows that exercising outside has stronger associations with social experience as it provides additional pathways that promote future exercise behaviors.

Nature-based environments for exercise facilitate more social interactions within the community, promoting social cohesion and personal health. Social support indirectly impacts physical health. 

Connect with Nature...

Hiking-Couple-Looking-at-Nature

As mentioned previously, our interaction with nature has changed over the years. For 99% of human history, we've lived off the land and sought nature for basic survival needs and health, but also for pleasure and physical activity.

We are genetically designed to be hunter-gatherers within the great outdoors, we aren't being stimulated physically or mentally within the same way and this might be detrimental to health. One theory is that we are all born with an emotional affiliation for other living organisms, i.e. we are nature-loving, which can mean as a part of our genetic makeup we are innately predisposed to desire contact with nature, and thus exercising outdoors should be used to enhance our health.

More recently climbers, hill-walkers, mountain bikers, and endurance athletes have all enjoyed the good outdoors and green spaces. It is particularly important for parents to teach their children about the importance of nature and spending time outside. Our children watch and learn from the behaviors they observe in their environment. If you are living a healthy life, they will likely grow up to do the same. Encourage your children to get involved in physical activities outdoors.

Otherwise, a cycle of disconnectedness and unfamiliarity will pass from generation to generation – leading to unhealthy populations. When you interact less with nature you make yourself vulnerable to allergens, pollutants, microbes like bacteria and viruses. Social isolation is detrimental to our health. It can cost us a lot in terms of behavioral problems, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and mental illnesses.

I encourage everyone to follow the green exercise approach because it allows us to get closer to nature and improve our health. Here are a few examples of exercise you can do outside and their associated health benefits:

Popular-Green-Exercises1
Popular-Green-Exercises2

Environmental Benefits...

Did you know that exercising can benefit our planet? Green living and exercising outdoors encourages healthy living while promoting three key principles:

  • Reducing pollution
  • Conserving natural resources
  • Protecting the balance of nature

It uses less man-made materials, reduces our pollution, conserves our natural resources, and can reduce climate change. To read more about the positive impacts exercising outdoors can have on our environment, please click here. 

The Benefits of Nature for Health: The Final Verdict!

Green exercise refers to the use of outdoor spaces to promote your physical, mental, and overall health. It is extremely cost-effective since you avoid expensive gym subscriptions and workout machines.

About Going Green advocates for clean, green, and eco-friendly living. In the Green Exercise category, I will be adding more articles on types of green exercises, their health benefits, environmental benefits, how to perform them, and much more. 

Reach out to me using the space provided below if you have any comments or questions. 



Share the Love of Healthy Living...

Reader Comments

  1. Hi Catherine,
    I really like your examples of the benefits of different types of exercise. I try to do a little yoga each day to help with spine! I’ve yet to try Tai Chi.

    What’s your favorite outdoor exercise?

    Warm regards,
    Sonia

  2. I love getting out for a cycle every day, weather permitting. I ride mountain bike routes through trails, parks and wooded areas and I love it. Getting away from the hustle, bustle and getting in touch with nature is so good for the soul. Yoga’s next on my list – preferably an outdoor one, but in the UK, weather doesn’t give us much choice 😉

    1. Yes, the weather can be very temperamental in the UK. It is hard to find the motivation to get outside in the winter where you are but if you do, you will be better off for doing so.

  3. Thank you for the post, we need to learn to value nature. Continuing the way we are destroy our earth, their will be nothing to admire soon. I hope more people will see your post and change their ways of life.

  4. Great post. And from my own experience I can confirm it’s true. 😄
    I am so lucky to live at the foot of a nature park. And that the lockdown restrictions are loosened so we are allowed out of the house again.

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