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The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all

DOI: 10.1186/2046-7648-2-3

Keywords: Green exercise, Physiology, Natural environment, Physical activity, Motivation, Health

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Most discussions of human interactions with the environment concern the potential challenges they place on one another. These usually concern the extreme environmental demands such as those seen at high altitude, at depth or in extremes of temperature. Alternatively, they express the growing human population’s ongoing tendency to negatively influence the delicate balance of nature, which developed for millions of years prior to our evolutionary invasion.With the multiplicity of the ‘great outdoors’ including forests, seaside, countryside, parks, local green areas and even gardens, another conversation considers the role of environment in benefiting human health. Green or natural spaces have been considered to be advantageous for health for many years. For example, in the UK during the 19th century Industrial Revolution, wealthy philanthropists developed urban parks for the benefit of the public’s health, and hospital gardens were considered an important addition for their believed healing properties [1,2]. A study in the early 21st century has further supported this belief, demonstrating an association between improved health outcomes and amount of surrounding ‘green space’ [3,4]. Subsequently, how and why the great outdoors may elicit health benefits has become a focal point for research.Our hunter-gatherer ancestors existed with the outdoor natural environment for thousands of years, and it is hypothesised that this provides present day humans with an innate affiliation with nature [5]. In addition, nature provides an environment that does not require our direct attention, giving nature restorative properties therefore allowing recovery from mental fatigue [6] and attention restoration [7]. Although in the Western world, less people are involved in the natural environment on a daily basis, in particular reduced numbers working on the land, many people seek out nature and undertake outdoor recreational activities. Currently, there is an increasing trend for people


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