Green exercise is defined as physical activity in the presence of nature. A term coined by the University of Essex in 2003, when a research team was set up to look at where, when, how and why green exercise brings health and well-being benefits.
With people spending, on average, 90 percent of their time indoors6, potentially undermining our physical and mental health, the green exercise movement has picked up pace in recent years with more people recognising the positive impact that being outside, whatever the activity, can have on health and wellbeing.
Taking a walk in nature, especially a brisk one (walking at a pace that gets your heart beating faster, but you can still hold a conversation) is a great health all-rounder. It burns calories, which can help with weight loss, and it works your heart and makes it stronger over time.
Brisk walking also helps build strength in many muscles, including your legs and bottom. You might even find your core muscles become stronger, which is great for posture and preventing back pain.
As a guide, the NHS suggests that we do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week (brisk walking is included in this). This could look like 30 minutes, 5 days a week, or you can even break it up into shorter bursts of 10 minutes.
If these facts alone don’t have you reaching for the door, some of the greatest minds in history were renowned walkers, using it as a way to clear the brain, solve problems and boost creativity:
Greek philosopher, Aristotle, conducted his lectures while walking the grounds of his school in Athens. Prolific author Charles Dickens would go for a long walk after daily periods of writing, and at night when he couldn’t sleep. Beethoven would apparently walk whatever the weather and would carry a pen and sheets of music paper in case inspiration struck. Even former President of the USA Barack Obama is known for his walking meetings, as is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Click on the link to find out more about our #Headstrong mental health campaign, an initiative to encourage people to work on their mental fitness in the same way they would their physical fitness. Or visit our health and wellbeing hubs for more related mental health content.
Health and fitness benefits of gardening - AXA PPP healthcare
Mindful breathing tips - AXA PPP healthcare
Health benefits of walking - AXA PPP healthcare
1 University of Exeter. "Two hours a week is key dose of nature for health and wellbeing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2019.
2 2019 Global Wellness Trends: Prescribing Nature.
3 RSPB. Nature prescribed to help health. RSPB, 5 October 2015.
4 Nature reduces rumination and sgPFC activation. Gregory N. Bratman, J. Paul Hamilton, Kevin S. Hahn, Gretchen C. Daily, James J. Gross. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jun 2015, 201510459; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1510459112.
5 Peen, J, Schoevers, RA, Beekman, AT and Dekker, J (2010) The current status of urban-rural differences in psychiatric disorders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 121, 84–93. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2009.01438.x..
6 The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): A Resource for Assessing Exposure to Environmental Pollutants, by Neil E. Klepeis and others, and published by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2001.