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!
I too am delighted to hear that it just take five mins of exercise in the green to feel the benefits for your mental health. I am sure the majority of us can manage this!
Thomas Jefferson would applaud your excellent advice on “green” walking.
Walking was Thomas Jefferson’s preferred activity. He firmly believed that walking ensured not only bodily health, but mental health as well:
“Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual…Give about two of them [hours] every day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong.”
“If the body be feeble, the mind will not be strong. The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises walking is best. A horse gives but a kind of half exercise, and a carriage is no better than a cradle. No one knows, till he tries, how easily a habit of walking is acquired.”
“The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk; but divert yourself by the objects surrounding you. Walking is the best possible exercise.”
“Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body, cheerfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends….You are not however to consider yourself as unemployed while taking exercise. That is necessary for your health, and health is the first of all objects.”
“Habituate yourself to walk very far. The Europeans value themselves on having subdued the horse to the uses of man; but I doubt whether we have not lost more than we have gained, by the use of this animal. No one has occasioned so much the degeneracy of the human body. An Indian goes on foot nearly as far in a day, for a long journey, as an enfeebled white does on his horse; and will tire the best horses. There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue.” How ironic Jefferson’s words are today.
I inherited a love for “green” walking from my mother. We went for many long walks while I was growing up in South Dakota. I’ve been walking ever since. My favorite walk has been the Inca Trail in Peru. Today, I walk the extensive urban trails of Kansas City.
“Time wastes too fast…with what rapidity…the days and hours…are flying over our heads like clouds of a windy day never to return.” Walk green today!
Another delightful and educational post…thanks! Across from my work is a small woodsy area I have been walking on my lunch hour–taking a few minutes to enjoy the peace of life. I was just doing it because it felt good, not I find out it is good for me too! Actually I develop wellness calendar’s and tips on a monthly basis for work, so I am excited to use some of this data. Thanks again!
This is good news, since I walk outside almost everyday with the hubby and the dog:)
Thanks everyone for your comments. Denis, once again, you blow me away. Thank you for sharing that wonderful piece from Thomas Jefferson. You’ve just increased my joy in walking even more!
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