By now, you’ve probably heard the news (unless you’ve been living under a rock): exercise is good for you!
And if you’re a regular on this blog, you’ll also know that nature is good for you too. (That’s what ecomedicine is all about!)
So it might not surprise you to learn that — guess what? — exercise in nature is really good for you!
By combining the already prodigious health benefits of exercise and with the incredible (and scientifically documented) healing power of nature, exercise in nature gives you double the bang for your buck. Move over peanut butter and jelly — exercise and nature are the new power duo!
So how can you get the benefits of exercising in nature? Here are three of my favorite ways.
1) Grab a mat and take your yoga outdoors. Whether you have just a passing familiarity with yoga or you’re meeting with your mat daily, you probably have an inkling that yoga is supposed to be good for you. But you might be surprised by just how good it can be—and how many wildly diverse health problems it can be a palliative for.
Yoga can be a valid therapeutic technique for dealings with problems like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, PTSD, Parkinson’s, and even cancer. And doing yoga in nature essentially supercharges all the regular benefits you’d see from yoga indoors: reduced stress, depression, anxiety, blood pressure, and symptoms and increased mobility, motor function, psychological well-being, and quality of life.
2) Hang ten and start surfing! Surf therapy helps all sorts of people, from kids with disabilities and troubled teens to adults with addictions, military service members and veterans. And benefits range from improved emotional regulation, social competency and self-confidence to reduced anxiety, stress, PTSD, addiction, and pain. Take this fantastic 2020 scoping review of the qualitative and quantitative research that currently exists on surf therapy, which found a wealth of evidence to support the idea that surf therapy is “a means of improving both physical and psychosocial health outcomes” for the people who use it. The review also identified the types of patients for whom surf therapy is especially beneficial.
What makes surf therapy such an incredible tool is the way in which it incorporates the already prodigious therapeutic powers of adventure therapy and supercharges it by tossing it a board and sending it into the ocean. Surf therapy gives practitioners the benefits of both adventure therapy and blue care, making it a unique form of nature therapy with a ton of healing potential.
3) Take a hike — literally! If you don’t have a yoga mat or a surf board, don’t worry! Taking a walk through beautiful trails, mountains, or forests is one of the simplest ways to get some exercise in nature. The rigorous physical activity is known to have a marked effect on our physical and mental health — and the effect is amplified when said physical activity takes place in nature. Exercise impacts our serotonin levels, as noted in this 2011 study. A separate 2013 study that looked at participants with depression who exercised three times a week found that after 12 weeks of regular exercise, ten out of the 12 participants were no longer categorized as depressed. And doing your exercise in the presence of nature means reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, and increased ability to focus.
To learn more about the benefits of exercising in nature, or green exercise, check out my latest video.