Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Switch To a Park from Treadmill, to boost Mental Health

Love to run on a treadmill in your favorite gym? Well! you may be getting the brawns there, but what about total wellness on emotional, mental and spiritual level? A study that has been published in the American Chemical Society’s semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology states that just five minutes of exercise in a park, working in a backyard garden, on a nature trail, or other green space can boost mood and self-esteem.

Specifically, terming any physical activity done in the presence of nature as "Green Exercise, Jules Pretty and Jo Barton discuss in the research work about the abundant scientific evidences, which show that activity in natural areas decreases the risk of mental illness and improves the sense of well-being. Until now, however, nobody knew how much time people had to spend in green spaces to get those and other benefits.

"For the first time in the scientific literature, we have been able to show dose-response relationships for the positive effects of nature on human mental health," Pretty said.

From an analysis done on 1,252 people (of different ages, genders and mental health status) drawn into ten existing studies in the United Kingdom, the authors were able to show that activity in the presence of nature led to mental and physical health improvements.

They analyzed activities such as walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming. The greatest health changes happened in the young and the mentally-ill, although people of all ages and social groups got benefited. All natural environments were advantageous, including parks in urban settings. Green areas with water added something extra. A blue and green environment seems even better for health, Pretty noted.
From a health policy perspective, the largest positive effect on self-esteem came from a five-minute dose.

"We know from the literature that short-term mental health improvements are protective of long-term health benefits," Pretty said. "So we believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with green exercise," added Barton.

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