We know that being active, rather than inactive, is good for us, but NCSEM research from Sheffield Hallam University has shown that exercising outside in green environments could have more benefits than simply going to the gym does.

Professor Keith Davids has worked on a number of research studies looking at the impact of exercising outside. His research group includes Tam Yeh (PhD student), Dr Sarah Churchill and Dr Joseph Stone (Sheffield Hallam University) and Dr Eric Brymer (Leeds Beckett University). Their work has found that physical activity in green space (e.g. in parks, gardens, forests, fields, meadows, beaches, hills and mountains), compared to other popular environments such as the gym or an exercise class, is more effective in enhancing physical and psycho-social wellbeing.

These findings are aligned with other research revealing that exposure to nature can improve health and wellbeing, relieve stress and provide a restorative experience, increasing positive mood states and enhancing life skills. Physical activity in the presence of nature seems to enhance emotions and provide a positive effect on mental wellbeing over and above the physical benefits that activity brings. Even (re)designing indoor physical activity contexts to contain some key themes of Green Exercise can provide added psychological and emotional benefits to experience over and above the physical effects.

Physical activity in green environments provides added psychological and emotional benefits, rather than just the usual physical benefits that we know activity brings.

Professor Davids from Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sports Engineering Research said: “Our research has shown that exercise and physical activity in green environments such as gardens, parks or forests provides added psychological and emotional benefits, rather than just the usual physical benefits that we know activity brings. These added benefits can be especially useful in the deep mid-winter to counter the effects of the season on body rhythms, thoughts, feelings and physical exertion levels.”

If you’re looking for some ideas for outdoor exercise why not try:

GreenGym is a way to combine outdoor physical activity, making friends, and helping others. Green Gyms free outdoor sessions where you will be guided in practical activities such as planting trees, sowing meadows and establishing wildlife ponds. The emphasis is very much on health and fitness – volunteers warm up and cool down in preparation for a range of light to vigorous activities to suit all abilities.

parkrun free, weekly, 5km timed runs at over 500 locations in the UK. Events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and people of all abilities are encouraged to take part

British Military Fitness Boot camp classes take place in the great outdoors in parks throughout the UK. Every class is different and caters for all fitness levels.

Read more
Yeh, H-P., Stone,J.A., Churchill, S.M., Brymer,E. & Davids, K. (2017). Physical and emotional benefits of different exercise environments designed for treadmill running. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14 (7), 752-. 10.3390/ijerph14070752

Yeh, H.-P., Stone, J., Churchill, S., Wheat, J., Brymer, E. & Davids, K. (2016). Benefits of green physical activity: An ecological dynamics perspective. Sports Medicine 46, 947-953. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0374-z

Sharma-Brymer, V., Brymer, E. & Davids, K. (2015). The relationship between physical activity in green space and human health and wellbeing: An ecological dynamics perspective. Journal of Physical Education Research 2, 7-22.

Brymer, E., Davids, K. & Mallabon, E. (2014). Understanding the psychological health and wellbeing benefits of physical activity in nature: An ecological dynamics analysis. Ecopsychology 6, 189-197. doi:10.1089/eco.2013.0110.