BENEFITS OF THE GREAT OUTDOORS
‘Green physical activity’ refers to any activity taking place in the presence of nature; this could be anything from going for a walk along the beach to gardening. Evidence shows that green physical activity leads to a variety of positive short and long-term health outcomes such as reduced blood pressure, improved sleep, and even increased levels of cancer-fighting natural killer cells. On top of these physiological benefits, research shows that all green environments improve both self-esteem and mood, and lowers stress, with the presence of water having the greatest effect. Therefore, it is not only how active you are which is important, but seemingly also where you are active!
Being amongst nature allows for a temporary escape from day-to-day responsibilities, and it is thought that the greater the diversity in the nature surrounding us, the greater the mood boost. So, where possible, finding vegetation dense areas such as woods will only further enhance these benefits to your wellbeing. Research has shown that regular use of woods or parks for physical activity reduced the risk of poor mental health compared to those who are active indoors.
We realise that not everyone lives in an area with access to beautiful woods or beaches, but there are still ways to bring nature into your daily routine. Simply introducing potted plants and small trees into your house can help boost your mood and mental wellbeing. A study found that bringing plants into the workplace increased productivity by 15%, and even having photos or screensavers showing photos of nature showed some of the same benefits. Additionally, getting up to water plants around the house or gardening is a great way to increase physical activity levels, reduce your sedentary time and all of the added benefits that come with this!
Green spaces have such a positive effect on our health mainly because they impact the release of various hormones. It has been shown that green physical activity reduces feelings of anxiety and depression through the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. The sound of water has also been shown to lower cortisol levels and heart rate, reducing stress. Being in the sunshine exposes us to Vitamin D which has many benefits including improving the immune system, boosting mood, and promoting weight loss.
If you’re wondering how you can use this information to make a positive change in your life, consider moving some of your activities outside! Yoga in the front room could become yoga in the park by lake, and any opportunities to walk through fields or woods as opposed to roads would be a great way to boost mental and physical health. Utilising your lunch break to go on a wander through local parks is a great way to get outside – you may even be able to persuade co-workers to join you! Perhaps you could even invest in some new plants for the house. Whatever it is that works for you, why not make the most of the summer weather and take up this perfect opportunity to spend as much time surrounded by nature as possible.
The KiActiv® Team