To Get Started With Green Exercise, Understand the Mechanics and Work around Barriers
Everybody knows that exercise is vital to achieving better physical fitness and maintaining good health. And we also know that exposure to natural environments or objects, even if it’s something as simple as an indoor plant or a pleasant window view, can soothe your mind.
Why not combine the two? When you jog in the park, you’re raising your activity level while soaking up the scenery. Staying at fishing resorts gets you even further into the wilderness, restoring stressed-out spirits and engaging your whole body when a fish gets hooked.
This potent combination of exposure to nature and elevated activity is often called ‘green exercise.’ And it’s been demonstrated to offer significant benefits to physical and mental health.
Recent years have shown alarming trends in much of the Western world, evidencing declines in physical activity and increasing rates of obesity, heart disease, depression, and other mental health issues. Green exercise offers a potent cure, but many of us will have barriers to overcome first.
The suggested mechanics
The research into green exercise is still developing, and in any case, health is a complex subject. As a result, we have no clear understanding of why it has such positive effects.
Any form of exercise is an improvement over the typical sedentary lifestyle. But why is hiking better than an hour or two at the gym? Studies suggest several potential explanations.
One angle focuses on the restorative environment. According to psycho-evolutionary theory, we are driven towards nature by physiological stress because we’ve evolved to thrive in natural environments, not urban ones.
Attention restoration theory, on the other hand, focuses on our psychological needs. It contends that mental fatigue drives us to escape routines and seek immersive, fascinating experiences in nature or with natural objects.
A third perspective, called ecological dynamics, suggests that the rich benefits of green exercise stem from ‘affordances.’ These are invitations to action that emerge from the relationship between a person and their environment. Since natural settings are more complex, challenging, and intense than artificial, controlled ones, our range of affordances is much broader and deeper.
Getting your workout while surrounded by greenery sounds nice, but the limitations of this approach will soon become apparent to many city-dwellers.
Not all cities give residents ample access to green spaces. Some are concrete jungles. While it may be possible to go out of your way and visit a park or hike outside city limits, time constraints are already a commonly cited obstacle to exercise.
The challenge level of green exercise also tends to be higher, which can be an issue for individuals who are just getting started and attempting to build momentum. Someone suffering from a chronic condition, for instance, might perceive it as too difficult compared to walking on a treadmill at home, even though the latter offers limited benefits.
Understanding the proposed mechanics of green exercise can help you overcome such obstacles. Working on the aspect of the restorative environment, you can create a space within your home that has natural elements, such as indoor plants or even photos of natural scenery.
Alternatively, the yard can be optimized through gardening or landscaping techniques to become a suitable venue for your daily exercise.
Practicing natural movement exercises also helps to engage your whole body with the environment. It can replicate some of the richness of affordances from an ecological dynamics perspective instead of the typically limited movements we practice through gym equipment and machines.
It’s essential to recall that none of these workarounds is a fully effective substitute for actual green exercise. Even if you seldom get the chance to head out into nature, every opportunity counts, so take them whenever they come around.