Monday, June 7, 2010

Just Five Minutes of Exercise

In the Green of Health: Green Exercise

OK, ok, to please you people with much to do but little time to exercise (see Fuel for the Soul):

Just 5 minutes of exercise in a park, working in a backyard garden, on a nature trail, or other green space will benefit mental health.

Green exercise is activity in the presence of nature. Abundant scientific evidence shows that it decreases the risk of mental illness and improves the sense of well-being. Until now, however, nobody knew how much time people had to spend in green spaces to get those positive health benefits.

Jules Pretty and Jo Barton, in a new study in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology have been able to show dose-response relationships for the positive effects of nature on human mental health.

The research used meta-analysis methodology to analyze 10 UK studies involving 1252 participants of different ages, genders and mental health status.

They analyzed activities such as walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming. The greatest health changes occurred in the young and the mentally-ill, although people of all ages and social groups benefited. All natural environments were beneficial including parks in urban settings. Green areas with water added something extra. A blue and green environment seems even better for health, the authors noted.

From a health policy perspective, the largest positive effect on self-esteem came from a five-minute dose.

"We know from the literature that short-term mental health improvements are protective of long-term health benefits," Pretty said. "So 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," added Barton.

This study confirms that the environment provides an important health service. Talk to your policy makers about maintaining and creating more green space today!

Journal Reference:

Barton J, Pretty J. What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 2010 May 15;44(10):3947-55.

Sorry, we could not find a more appropriate picture, but we are sure we got your attention to the benefits of just 5 minutes of exercise in a green nature setting.

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