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Five minutes of exercising in nature improves mental health

Recent studies in psychology have shown that spending time or exercising in natural settings—even urban parks and gardens—have benefits for one’s mental health and sense of wellbeing. But a new study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology pushes our understanding of the link between nature and health even further, finding that only five minutes of exercising in a ‘green space’ will provide one with both mental and physical 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,” co-author Jules Pretty said in a press release.

The study found that just a five-minute ‘dose’ of exercising in nature provided the biggest boost in people’s self esteem.

Analyzing over twelve-hundred people from ten studies in the UK, the authors were able to show that a myriad of activities, including walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and even farming, in natural settings helped people’s mental health. While the study found that all ages benefited from the ‘green exercise’, the greatest changes were seen in young subjects and subjects who already suffered from mental-illness.

The study further found that being active in green species with water provided additional improvements in people’s mental health.

“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,” says co-author Jo Barton.

Pretty added that the economic benefit of a wide policy initiative encouraging exercise in natural settings could prove substantial.

A previous study has shown that walking in green environments significantly improved the concentration-abilities of children with ADHD, and in some cases was even more effective than medication.

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