As we start a ‘New Year’ many of us will have set ourselves New Year resolutions and for a lot of people, these will focus around health and wellbeing. Back in October 2019, the clinic posted an article on the benefits of regular exercise on both physical and mental health so if you need a reminder of these benefits, have a look.
I only work a couple of days a week at the Fay Pedler Clinic. The rest of my week I am lucky enough to work on Dartmoor as a Hedgelayer and Dry Stone Waller. These traditional rural skills are physically demanding and act as a large part of my regular exercise regime and with our two lurchers always keen to lead me out onto the moors my “Green Gym” workout is pretty much complete!
The term green exercise or green gym broadly is defined as taking physical activity in the presence of nature or simply, outdoors. I have always been a huge advocate of the “Green Gym” and recently the health benefits associated with “green exercise” have been widely covered in the news.
The positive effects of physical activity are widely documented, but some recent research on green exercise suggests that physical activity in nature brings additional positive effects beyond those of indoor activity. These include healthier levels of cortisol and improvements in blood pressure, vitality, energy levels, well-being, positive emotions, and higher motivation to participate in physical activities. This is partly due to the emotional and physical benefits of contact with nature, which increases well-being and sense of life satisfaction.
According to research the positive effects on self-esteem and improved mood from taking green exercise is especially noticed in people suffering from depression and anxiety, and it has also been shown that only 10 minutes of green exercise can have a significant positive effect.
So going green from an exercise perspective might be a good way for you to increase your weekly activity levels or at least provide some variety. Some simple ways to enjoy the green spaces wherever you live might include:
• Outside lunch – Many of us eat at our desks or skip proper breaks altogether. However, taking your lunch break is beneficial to you and your employer as it gives you an opportunity to move and your brain a chance to recharge. Try going for a walk to your local park, along a river or just explore near your workplace and maybe even find somewhere to sit to enjoy your lunch.
• Explore near to you – Living in Devon or Cornwall we are all lucky to be near a park, a national park, an open space, a national trust property, a footpath or a coast path. So at the weekend get out and explore.
• Ditch the gym day – Either explore local outdoor exercise classes in public green spaces or get out there and walk or go for a run.
• Get your green fingers going – Gardening has proven health benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing. So doing some gardening at home or volunteering at a community farm or garden could be a great way to get some green exercise.
• Photography walk – Get out there with your mobile phone or camera and go for a walk in nature. Whether you focus on the small stuff likes flowers and insects or the bigger picture like the trees and the whole landscape it can be a great way to be mindful in nature. Also, you can share your photos with us on Facebook @faypedlerphysio
Exercising in nature isn’t going to work for everyone; after all, we are all individuals. The most important thing is doing exercise in some form to get the health benefits that are associated with doing physical activity.
So I would say have a go, mix it up, get outside in the “Green Gym” and if you need any help or you pick up an injury along the way you know where we are!