I love to walk. It takes just a couple of minutes and I am completely immersed in all the beauty that nature has to offer. Here in North Carolina we’re currently enjoying the flowering magnolia and cherry trees, the last of the daffodils, tulips that began to open just a week or two ago and most recently dogwood trees whose buds are just starting to open. Whether it’s the longer daylight hours and laughter of children playing outside during summer, the rustling leaves and busy squirrels in fall, or the feeling of crisp air on your face in winter, each season brings with it something in nature to appreciate.
We all know by now the many health benefits that can be gained through exercise – reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, lowering of resting blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels, reduction in the risk of some cancers, and the list goes on. But did you know that exercise outdoors, often referred to as Green Exercise, has additional benefits? Green exercise is defined as exercise that takes place in natural environments, including urban parks with green spaces as well as natural settings with little to no human upkeep. Many of the studies have focused on the positive impacts to mental health such as improved mood and happiness, reduced stress, better focus and attention. (Bowler et al. 2010; Lawton et al. 2017) Studies with athletes have shown improved performance and less perceived effort compared to the same workout performed indoors (Donnelly et al. 2016; Rogerson 2017) Personally, when I’m focus on all the sights and smells in nature, I’m hardly even aware of my legs moving steadily beneath me.
The exact mechanisms by which these benefits occur when exercising outdoors is not completely determined, but a break from technology and devices such as computers and cell phones may be partially responsible.
In honor of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22nd I encourage you to take your exercise outdoors. Here are a few more ideas from our team on how to celebrate Mother Earth:
- Use cloth napkins. If you take your lunch to work, take metal utensils (not plastic) with you as well.
- Print double sided or better yet, do not print a hard copy unless absolutely necessary.
- Participate in a shred event
- Walk or cycle when travelling shorter distances
- Re-use or re-purpose materials including purchasing items made from recycled materials (examples https://tchoupindustries.com/ https://www.sugamats.com/ )
- Hang clothes to dry rather than using the dryer and wash clothes in cold water.
- Stay away from harsh cleaners and make your own home cleaning products (Try this solution: ½ cup white vinegar + ½ cup water + 15 drops of lemon essential oil)
- If you have cats, too much cardboard and a lot of time on your hands, make this kitty condo.
- Grow a garden and compost.
- Buy and support local merchants including eating locally and seasonally.
- Buy used or restore older items. (This piece had a sticker on the mirror dated 1906. Refinishing this piece gave it new life!)
Finally, there is a campaign this year to eliminate “single use plastics” and one of the biggest is straws. Ask for “no straw” at restaurants and purchase reusable glass or stainless steel straws. Read more in this Washington Post article.
Thanks for letting us share our ideas for being green. We’d love to hear from you. Let us know what creative ideas you have or which one of the above ways you plan to be green to celebrate Earth Day. Let it become a new routine all year long!
Want more information on the benefits of outdoor exercise? Check out Amy's post Get Outside and Experience Shinrin Yoku .