by Paul Fallon, September 2017
We know that all types of exercise are beneficial to your health...
...but studies on both sides of the Atlantic have found a strong link between exercise taken in green and wild settings and general wellbeing. Benefits include increased energy, feelings of revitalization, and positive engagement, and reduced feelings of tension, anger and depression.
The most spectacular boosts are psychological. For example, in the 2008 Scottish Health Survey, a team of researchers at Glasgow University, led by Professor Richard Mitchell, found that exercising in “natural environments” such as parks or woodland was 50 per cent more beneficial for mental health than exercising in a gym. Moreover, a 2012 study in Belgium found that people who exercise in city centres performed significantly worse in cognitive tests than people who exercise in the countryside while and a study by scientists in Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013 found that going for a walk in a natural environment produced more “meditative” brain waves than performing the same activity in man-made environments (where levels of anxiety and frustration rose).
The work I did with the charity On The Road Again provided further, first hand evidence of the power of exercise. I saw the positive changes for our members following an eight-week programme, where they met three times per week for up to an hour of exercise tailored to their individual requirements.
Often, in the early stages of the programme, those taking part experienced frustration but were encouraged to keep showing up, because it was by attending on a regular basis that they developed the habit of exercise and realized the eventual benefits. As in so many other aspects of life, “just turning up” can be so difficult sometimes but so important.
And the outcomes? The participants reported increased levels of self-confidence, higher energy levels, improved sleep habits and, overall, they reported being happier within themselves.
So remember that walk, jog or run in your local park or countryside can do you a power of good!