It’s tough for gym rats to get exercise outside right now, with most of the country buried in snow and ice. But make no mistake: getting non-industrialized in your lungs air can increase mental well-being.
A collaboration of researchers supported by two health research organizations reviewed the outcomes from research trials and outdoor exercise initiatives. Data from 833 adults who participated in these studies indicate that exercising outdoors;
- Improved mental well being
- Was revitalizing and energizing
- And increased positive engagement
all the while decreasing
Earlier research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that even spending a brief amount of time outdoors will have a positive effect on mental health. That brief amount of time is actually just five minutes. Five minutes outside of a cubicle will probably have a positive effect on anyone.
Researchers Jules Pretty and Jo Barton came up with this number after analyzing 10 previous U.K. studies that included outcomes from 1,252 individuals from diverse age groups, genders and mental health status. They looked at a couple of outdoor activities such as walking, boating, horse-riding, gardening, cycling, fishing and even farming. Youth and those who were diagnosed with a mental illness benefitted the most from being outdoors. But of course everyone got some relief from heading out to the reconnect with nature, especially where there was some greenery and hopefully a nice water feature.
Looking at the two research reviews, it may not come as a great surprise that being outdoors can help people who are experiencing anxiety and/or depression. Jasper Smits and Michael Otto, reviewed population based, clinical and metanalytic studies of using exercise as an intervention for treating anxiety and depression.
Smits and Otto suggest “Exercise can fill the gap for people who can’t receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don’t want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments.” They’re proposing that exercise can become a primary and supplemental treatment for anxiety and depression.
A review published in the Cochrane Library looked at research regarding exercise for those who are diagnosed with schizophrenia. They supported the current guidelines about encouraging exercise for clients but like all the other researches listed in this blog they encourage further research that will help to determine just how and how well exercise benefits the mental well being of people.
There is an arm of psychology that is currently working hard to bring the much needed research results to the field of psychology; ecopsychology. Ecopsychology is the study of how human beings are connected to the natural world. Ecotherapy is a therapeutic or healing application of ecopsychology, where people are guided through a process of reconnection with nature that is facilitated by therapist or other practitioner. Reconnecting or strengthening that bond between self and nature is meant to be healing and put the individual back into their true selves.
This isn’t so much about working out 3-5 times a week to get those six pack abs, it’s about reconnecting with the world around us in a way that is nurturing and helps us to see ourselves as part of greater living whole. This may not be the next magic pill, but it could be seen as the next step in a personal path of overall transformation gained by walking, hiking, or biking one’s way to balance and well being.
— Makenna Berry
Photo by www.localfitness.com.au