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Green Exercise Improves Exercise Benefits

couple exercising
September 14, 2015 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

What is being a “good mother” all about?

To me, it’s about unconditional love. It’s about always being there to nurture, support and teach your kids wrong from right.

There are countless reasons why we—and so many different cultures—call our gorgeous planet “Mother Earth.”

Mother gives us a green health bonus.

We all know that exercise gives us innumerable health benefits. Even if exercise means just taking a walk, it’s a self-care practice that’s right up there with a healthy diet.

Now research has shown that exercising outdoors—aka green exercise—delivers more health benefits than doing exactly the same routine indoors.

Also, by the way, “outdoors” can now also be found “indoors.”

Confusing? A bit—until you hear this: While you’re exercising indoors, just observing the outdoors delivers its own additional health benefits. Yes, gazing out the window at Mother Nature while working out is better for you than gazing at gym walls.

How to bring outdoor green exercise indoors

Researchers at an indoor gym created five groups of adults ages 18–60. Members of each group ran on a treadmill with a slideshow monitor for 20 minutes.

Each group saw different pictures onscreen while running:

  • Group 1: “Pleasant” rural scenes
  • Group 2: “Unpleasant” rural scenes
  • Group 3: “Pleasant” urban scenes
  • Group 4: “Unpleasant” urban scenes
  • Group 5: White screen—no images

Before and after the exercise session, researchers measured participants’ blood pressure, heart rate, mood, and self-esteem.

Results? In all groups, researchers found significantly reduced blood pressure, increased self-esteem, and a significant positive effect on mood measures. That’s from the exercise alone.

But here’s the sweet spot: the slideshow images that participants viewed affected the degree of improvement. For example: 100% of the Group 1 participants (rural pleasant) exhibited a significant decline in blood pressure, while only 60% of other subjects showed the same significant decline.

Healthy bonus points go to pleasant outdoor imagery!

Another finding to note: All of the pleasant scenes, both rural and urban, had a significantly more positive effect on self-esteem than the “white screen” exercise-only group.

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So it seems that no matter where your view of outdoors is—on a screen or in “real life”—to your body, it still counts as outdoors. There was no difference between city or country scenes either.

And finally, both groups who viewed unpleasant scenes showed a notable decrease in self-esteem—notably more significant among those who viewed the “rural unpleasant” images than among those who viewed “urban unpleasant” scenes.

Getting “grounded”

Some of the most remarkable research is on a practice called “grounding” (aka “earthing”) that shows just how intimate our relationship with Mother Earth is.

Our bodies create and run on electrical energy. Mother Earth does the same. What’s fascinating is that in our case:

  1. A natural by-product of our energy production is free radicals—which are positively charged electrons. As we’re surrounded by man-made electrical energy—WiFi, cell phones, and so on, we have more than a healthy amount of those free radicals in our bodies, often wreaking havoc.
  2. When we come into direct contact with Mother Earth, she neutralizes our positive electrons, and our bodies return to the same energy configuration as the Earth’s.

How sweet is that?

That’s the loving, harmonious, healthful way it worked for eons, as we walked barefoot, slept on natural materials on or near the ground, tilled the soil, fished in the sea.

Emerging research tells us that contact with the earth’s surface unleashes beneficial physiologic changes.  Not only that, exposure to sunshine has been shown to kill pain, burn fat, and boost energy—so earth and sun together can help in:

  • Reducing inflammation and chronic pain
  • Improving sleep and increasing energy
  • Promoting calm by reducing stress hormones
  • Improving blood pressure and blood flow
  • Relieving muscle tension and headache
  • Reducing menstrual and female hormone symptoms
  • Protecting us from environmental electromagnetic energy
  • Shortening recovery time from injury or other activity
  • Reducing or eliminating snoring

Today, unfortunately, we rarely have direct contact with Mother Earth. We’re insulated—to a fault.

But that’s so easy to fix.

Get your green on.

I recommend snuggling up with Mother Earth in any way you can—and remember, that can be as simple as looking at a pleasant image of the outdoors.

Summing up a lot of research, I’m hoping you’ll get your green on pronto:

Exercising with Mother Earth brings on:

  • Increased feelings of revitalization
  • Increased energy and positive engagement
  • Reduced tension, confusion, anger and depression
  • More enjoyment and satisfaction in their outdoor activity
  • Increased resolve to repeat the activity in the future.

What else can I tell you?

Love your Mother Earth—and go get your green on.

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