St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Green Physical Activity – the benefits

Nordic Walkers
Nordic Walking

This is a guest blog written by our Ecotherapy Nordic Walking tutor Michelle Cairns.  It features links to further reading and a full list of references in a slightly different style to our usual blog posts. We hope you enjoy reading it. If you are interested in joining our Ecotherapy programme you’d be very welcome.

Green physical activity is defined as any exercise performed in (relatively) natural settings. Other examples include fitness walking, jogging, running, rambling, trekking and cycling. Physical activity whilst being exposed to nature has been shown to have increase health benefits. A key component of green physical activity is a connection to nature. The more we  feel part of and connected to the outdoors the better it is for our health and wellbeing.  In the last 17 years there has been much research and discussion around the benefits of this type of exercise and connecting to nature in this blog we will look at a few of those benefits.

There is evidence that physical activity outdoors feels less demanding and more enjoyable than exercise indoors. This is good news for all as we then have a greater intention and are encouraged to exercise again and again in the future, which affects positive changes in behaviour.

Some of the particular mental health improvements include an enhancement in self-esteem or confidence. Activity outdoors has also shown improvements in sadness and aggression scales that contribute to poor mental health if allowed to accumulate. There are also feelings of being re-energised and revitalised from being and exercising outdoors compared to indoors which helps people to feel more engaged, focussed and present in the moment. There is also a reduction of stress, tension and anxiety and improved mood which are beneficial requirements of positive mental health. What is interesting is that you can expect these benefits from as little as 5-10 minutes exposure outdoors and at light to moderate intensity of physical exertion.

Recognized as a “disease modifier”, physical activity and exercise is increasingly viewed as a more holistic, cost-saving method for prevention, treatment and management of human disease conditions. Any regular participation in a physical activity programme of structured exercise may further have the following physical benefits:

For a more in depth understanding on the theories behind the benefits of green physical activity the following links may be of interest:

Biological theories:

 Psychological theories:

 Effects due to Nature are explained by:


AKERS, A., BARTON, J., COSSEY, R. and GAINSFORD, P., (2012). Visual color perception in green exercise: Positive effects on mood and perceived exertion. Environmental Science & Technology, 46(16), pp. 8661-8666.

MAYER, F., MCPHERSON FRANTZ, C., BRUEHLMAN-SENECAL, E. and DOLIVER, K., (2009). Why is nature beneficial? The role of connectedness to nature. Environment and Behaviour, 41(5), pp. 607-643

PRETTY, J., GRIFFIN, M., SELLENS, M. and PRETTY, C., (2003). Green exercise: Complimentary roles of nature, exercise and diet in physical and emotional wellbeing and implications for public health policy. CES occasional paper 2003-1. Colchester: University of Essex.

PRETTY, J., SOUTH, N., PEACOCK, J., HINE, R., SELLENS, M. and GRIFFIN, M., (2007). Green exercise in the UK countryside: Effects on health and psychological well-being, and implications for policy and planning. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 50(2), pp. 211-231.

PRETTY, J., PEACOCK, J., SELLENS, M. and GRIFFIN, M., (2005). The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 15(5), pp. 319-337.








2 October 2020 | Categories: Ecotherapy | Tags: cycling, green activity, green exercise, guest blog, guest post, nordic walking, physical activity