It is well known that exercise has multiple physiological benefits. However, research has begun to focus more specifically on activity done in the presence of nature, known as green exercise. Many of us have demanding daily routines that cause us to push aside hobbies and pastimes that we may like to indulge in. But it’s important to remind oneself, especially during the challenges of life with COVID-19, to take a minute to escape the heavier elements of our lives. Public parks like Riverwood can provide the opportunity for people to do so as they are often the only natural outdoor places in highly populated urban areas.
These outdoor spaces can help promote general health among members of the local community because they provide the room needed for individuals to partake in physical activities outdoors. Research has shown that individuals living close to a public park were more likely to engage in frequent physical activity and were less likely to be overweight. And while public green spaces provide a great location to partake in physical activities, simply viewing nature can also be beneficial and help maintain health.
Research has shown that exercise in green spaces was more beneficial in improving both mental and cardiovascular health compared to regular exercise in a non-natural environment. As a result, these green spaces can not only help to improve physiological well-being but can also help reduce stress levels, anxiety, and mental fatigue. Feeling connected with nature has also been shown to correlate with life satisfaction, happiness, and mindfulness, which in turn can help to further reduce the stresses we face in our daily lives.
Hiking is one leisure activity that can be done in Riverwood that intertwines both physical and mental health, and for those who enjoy the activity, they’ll be motivated to continue it over the long-term. A study conducted in Australia found that hikers burned more calories than runners, even though 40% did not intend their visit to a natural space to be focused on exercise. This further supports the idea that exercise and simply appreciating the beauty of nature have a synergistic effect, meaning when done together, the cumulative benefits outweigh the individual benefits of each activity.
It’s clear that physical and mental health can be linked to green spaces and that we must continue to promote and encourage activities that take place in nature, such as hiking, as it allows us to take a much needed break from the stresses around us.