Connect with nature
The synergistic combination of exercise and the great outdoors could be used as powerful tool to help fight the growing incidence of both physical inactivity and support overall wellbeing.
I don’t know about you but just exercising such as going for a walk/run outside offers a sense of freedom and a sense of relaxation, it’s hard to explain it but being confided to four walls for the majority of the day can be claustrophobic at times and there is nothing better than getting outside when things are getting stressful. Our hunter gatherer ancestors existed within the outdoor natural environment for thousands of years and it may be one of the reasons why it is hypothesised that this provides us with an innate affiliation with the great outdoors. Less people are involved in the natural environment on a daily basis, in particular many people now seek out nature and undertake outdoor recreational activities to get away from office life.
The importance of the great outdoors
Almost half of UK adults (49 per cent) according to the Mental Health Foundation said
“being close to nature helps them cope with stress”.
Meanwhile more than four in ten UK adults (44 per cent) said it made them feel less worried and anxious.
Many people indicated they struggled to get enough time in nature with one in ten adults (11 per cent) saying they found it fairly or very difficult to access nature when they wanted.
According to Pretty et al (2005) demonstrated that allowing time to get out into green space and exercise can improve mental well-being and markers for physiological health. More recently due to the pandemic people have had no choice to exercise more outdoors such as climbers, hill walkers, mountain bikers and endurance runners have all enjoyed the great outdoors and green spaces.
“Nature can be a powerful ally in protecting our mental health, preventing distress and ensuring good mental wellbeing according to the mental health foundation.
The outdoor natural environment may provide some of the best all-round health benefits by increasing physical activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion, altering physiological functioning including stress reduction, restoring mental health. Exercise within green spaces and the great outdoors may be useful natural medicine to address health challenges facing developed countries. Alongside this the social aspect which some individuals crave, it may also increase enjoyment and adherence to bring about positive behaviour too.
“While nature won’t solve all our problems – prioritising time in nature can really help support good mental health. However, the most important thing is the quality of the experience and feeling like we connect with nature by trying to notice it’s beauty and absorb its sights, sounds and scents.