Exercise in the great outdoors halves the risk of poor mental health
16 / 07 / 2012
Exercising in forests, parks and other natural environments offers much better protection against mental ill health than going to the gym, according to new research from the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH).
The study by Rich Mitchell looked at the use of natural and non-natural environments for exercises like walking, running and cycling.
He looked at data from the Scottish Health Survey 2008, which described the different environments in which 1890 people were physically active, how often they exercised there, and how active they were overall. He then tallied that with the mental health of the same people , and found that activity in natural environments was associated with a lower risk of mental illness.
Rich said: “I wasn’t surprised by the findings that exercise in natural environments is good for your mental health, but I was surprised by just how much better it is for your mental health to exercise in a green place like a forest, than in other places like the gym.
“Woodlands and parks seemed to have the greatest effect, so the message to doctors, planners and policy makers is that these places need protecting and promoting.
“The results suggest that making the decision to exercise in a natural environment just once a week could be enough to gain a benefit. Any additional use may have a bigger effect.”