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February 2024
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Take It Outside!

Just Five Minutes of Exercise Outdoors Boosts Mental Health, Researchers Say

In a bad mood? Improve it by going outside!

Here in New York and all around the country, summer is in the air.  It may say “May” on the calendar, but the weather sure doesn’t know that, as this week’s temperatures in New York City are headed for the 70s and 80s!

I hope it’s as nice where you are as it is here.  And if it is, instead of going to the gym after work to exercise today, head outside…even if it’s for just five minutes.  Because according to a new study on the mental health effects of exercising outside, the great outdoors can heighten your mood and your self-esteem.

Researchers from the University of Essex discovered this after reviewing the health habits of over 1,200 people from 12 separate studies.  Among the information collected from these men and women of all ages was their state of mental health (i.e. were they diagnosed with any kind of mental health disorder and cognitive dysfunction) and the kind of activities they did outside, such as walking, bicycling, gardening or horseback riding.

All of the individuals who exercised regularly showed improvements in their mental health, but those who saw the most significant improvement were those who performed what the researchers call “green exercises.”  Green exercises are any of the aforementioned exercises performed outside.  Other green exercises include farming, walking, gardening, fishing or boating.

“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,” said Jo Barton in a statement.  Barton co-authored the study with her colleague, Jules Pretty.

Their complete findings can be found in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Oh, and if you’re someone who loves the ocean, then you’re going to love this:  the biggest mental health effects were found among those who live near the water, like the ocean, a river or lake.

So, it seems, the closer you are to blue, the less likely you are to get “blue.”

As with many studies, this probably confirms the obvious.  But this research is illuminating nonetheless because up to now, no one really knew just how long it took to be outside to reap the mental health benefits.  And according to the researchers, it takes as little as five minutes.

So you know what that means?  No more excuses.  No more saying, “I can’t go outside for a walk because I don’t have any time on my lunch break.” Everybody has at least five minutes they can spend outdoors to walk.

Now, ideally, you’ll be exercising for longer than five minutes, but as I always say, some exercise is better than no exercise.  And that’s every bit as true for the mind as it is for the body.


Related Posts

  1. Walking may Prevent Vascular Dementia
  2. Reduce Risk of Cancer Death with Exercise
  3. Mind Strong: A Resilient Mind Grounded in Exercise
  4. Walk to Lower Blood Pressure
  5. Benefits of Exercise and your Life Expectancy

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