What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis

Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, U.K.
Environmental Science and Technology (Impact Factor: 5.48). 03/2010; 44(10):3947-55. DOI: 10.1021/es903183r
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Green exercise is activity in the presence of nature. Evidence shows it leads to positive short and long-term health outcomes. This multistudy analysis assessed the best regime of dose(s) of acute exposure to green exercise required to improve self-esteem and mood (indicators of mental health). The research used meta-analysis methodology to analyze 10 UK studies involving 1252 participants. Outcomes were identified through a priori subgroup analyses, and dose-responses were assessed for exercise intensity and exposure duration. Other subgroup analyses included gender, age group, starting health status, and type of habitat. The overall effect size for improved self-esteem was d = 0.46 (CI 0.34-0.59, p < 0.00001) and for mood d = 0.54 (CI 0.38-0.69, p < 0.00001). Dose responses for both intensity and duration showed large benefits from short engagements in green exercise, and then diminishing but still positive returns. Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generated greater effects. Both men and women had similar improvements in self-esteem after green exercise, though men showed a difference for mood. Age groups: for self-esteem, the greatest change was in the youngest, with diminishing effects with age; for mood, the least change was in the young and old. The mentally ill had one of the greatest self-esteem improvements. This study confirms that the environment provides an important health service.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Public Health specialists have increasingly deployed the concept of ‘dose–response’ in areas such as diet (‘five-a-day’), alcohol (‘21 weekly units’) and physical activity (‘150 minutes of weekly activity’). Using these examples and a case study that sought to establish an optimal dose of physical activity for mental health gain, this article offers a critical assessment of the nature, robustness and function of ‘dose’ in public health. Drawing on a ‘sociology of knowledge’, the article argues that dose–response can best be considered an analogy that does not necessarily translate favourably from its original expression in toxicology to some public health domains – an over-extended analogy. Rather than having technical robustness, its attractiveness and utility is seen to lie in it possessing ‘cultural capital’, here, the ability to link behavioural concerns to clinical practice, to simplify complex ideas and to act as a regulatory form of behavioural governance. The article is skeptical of further empirical pursuits in identifying optimal doses and offers an alternative course for public health framing.
    Critical Public Health 12/2012; 22(4):1-14. DOI:10.1080/09581596.2012.682147 · 0.88 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background Public health guidelines emphasise the value of vigorous intensity physical activity, but participation levels are low. Purpose This study was aimed at identifying factors contributing to initial and sustained engagement in parkrun in the UK, to inform the design of community-based interventions promoting health-enhancing physical activity. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted by telephone with 48 adult participants of parkrun, a national network of weekly, free, volunteer-led, timed 5 km runs in public spaces. The framework approach was used for thematic analysis of transcripts. Results Two overarching themes emerged: freedom and reciprocity. Freedom referred to the accessibility and inclusivity of events, both of which contributed to initial attendance and sustained involvement. Reciprocity related to the dual opportunity for personal gain and for helping others. Anticipation of fitness and health benefits were important for initial motivation. However, additional aspects motivating continued involvement included achievement of time or attendance goals, social cohesion, and contributing to the community. Conclusions Specific features of the parkrun experience encouraged participation including the accessible, inclusive ethos, achievement opportunities, and inherent social support, along with the outdoor natural settings, and integrated volunteer system. The inclusion of these elements in community-based interventions may increase success in initiating and maintaining health-enhancing physical activity.
    International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 04/2015; 22(2). DOI:10.1007/s12529-014-9431-5 · 2.63 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The importance of physical activity for health is well-established. Questions remain whether outdoor exercise additionally benefits overall mental and physical well-being. Using cross-sectional data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, we examined relationships of physical activity environment (PAE) with reported tension, stress, emotional outlook, and health. 11,649 participants were included. 18% exercised indoors, 54% outdoors, and 28% in both. Participants who exercised partially or entirely outdoors exercised more. In fully-adjusted models, for women combined PAE was protective for worse emotional outlook (OR: 0.72; 95%CI: 0.52, 0.98). Combined PAE was also protective for reported poor health (OR for women: 0.63; 95%CI: 0.44, 0.91; OR for men: 0.75; 95%CI: 0.61, 0.92). Amount of physical activity modified PAE relationships with outcomes. Combined and outdoor PAE were more consistently protective for worse outcomes among high activity participants. Regardless of PAE, better outcomes were observed in active versus inactive participants. The current study suggests addition of outdoor PAE may be linked with better stress management, outlook and health perceptions for more active populations, whereas indoor PAE may be more important for low active populations. Further research should examine the order of causation and whether type of outdoor PAE (e.g., urban, natural) is important.
    Journal of Physical Activity and Health 04/2014; 11(8). DOI:10.1123/jpah.2012-0375 · 1.95 Impact Factor