Green exercise is any activity in the presence of nature, including woodland. There is considerable and widespread evidence that demonstrates it leads to positive short and long-term health benefits for people; in physical wellbeing and mental health.
According to a recent scientific study 1 both men and women gain similar improvements in self-esteem after green exercise, though men showed the greatest difference for mood. The greatest change in self-esteem was in the young and the mentally ill. The study concluded that the outdoor environment and nature provides an important health service.
I wrote previously about an estimated 317 million people-visits per year to woodlands, a large majority of these being for dog-walking and other casual visits. There is also increasing interest in organised exercise taking place in the outdoors.
Perhaps one of the best ideas, at least in my view, is the Green Gym run by the BTCV. The concept is that people undertake physical work in the outdoors with the joint benefits of gaining exercise while improving the environment; for example in coppicing or clearing scrub at a local nature reserve.
A more recent phenomenon, extending the concept of organised green exercise in the outdoors, are the karate, pilates and other exercise classes springing up (excuse the pun) in city parks and other outdoor spaces. I came across this exercise class (above photo) in a nature reserve, and it was proving a hit with the sheep flock and passing twitchers. However, these types of activities are not without controversy. According to The Tax Payers’ Alliance Council chiefs of two London Boroughs recently introduced new rules stating that:
.. anyone making money by being in a park should pay a fee. This means the council will now use patrols to check if anyone suspected of personal training, dog walking, nannying or even teaching for money has got the requisite license.
I’m sure it’s a personal taste but I would much prefer to don some old clothes and spend an hour or two with bowsaw or billhook, than roll around in lycra while watched by sheep. What do ewe think?
1 Barton, J. and Pretty, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 44 , (10), pp. 3947–3955. DOI 10.1021/es903183r. Read Abstract