Have you had your green walk today?

We all know how important eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and taking regular exercise is to our overall health and well-being. It is not just for the physical benefits, but it is also equally important for our mental health. I used to be a gym bunny in my BC (Before Cancer) years. When I was going through my treatment, I didn’t have the energy or the interest in the gym, and after treatment I never got back into the whole gym routine again. What I did discover though was  a great love for the outdoors. I found walking in nature very therapeutic and so I was delighted to read of a new study in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology, which claims that just five minutes of “green” exercise in the fresh air is optimal for good mental health.

Jules Pretty and Jo Barton explain in the study that green exercise is physical activity in the presence of nature. Abundant scientific evidence shows that activity in natural areas 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 and other benefits.

“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,” Pretty said.

From an analysis of 1,252 people (of different ages, genders and mental health status) drawn from ten existing studies in the United Kingdom, the authors were able to show that activity in the presence of nature led to mental and physical health improvements.

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, Pretty noted.

So I felt pretty good reading this latest research – seems like it was one recommendation I won’t find it too hard to stick to!