Exercise outside

By Lloyd Alter

All of us pasty-faced bloggers in our pyjamas should take note of a new study out of the University of Essex: Just five minutes of fresh air and exercise, no matter how moderate, makes a huge difference in mood and self-esteem. If you want an even bigger effect, add water, such as a lake or river.

Study leader Jules Pretty tells the BBC that “green exercise”- walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming in locations such as a park, garden or nature trail- is most effective for generally inactive or stressed people.

“Employers, for example, could encourage staff in stressful workplaces to take a short walk at lunchtime in the nearest park to improve mental health.”

More in Reuters and BBC

The idea that getting outside was good for your mental health is not new; A couple of years ago the British Mental Health group Mind.org called it it Ecotherapy. In their earlier study they compared a walk in a park to a walk in an indoor mall and found “startling” results:

  • 71 per cent reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk
  • 22 per cent felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping centre and only 45 per cent experienced a decrease in depression
  • 71 per cent said they felt less tense after the green walk
  • 50 per cent said their feelings of tension had increased after the shopping centre walk
  • 90 per cent had increased self-esteem after the country walk
  • 44 per cent said their self-esteem decreased after window shopping in the shopping centre.

Now we know that it just takes five minutes.