Researchers from the University of Essex say that spending time doing low-intensity activities outdoors seriously boosts mood and self-esteem. Jo Barton and Jules Pretty carried out a “Meta-Analysis” of 10 earlier studies that all focused on how various outside activities and environments affected participants’ rankings of the two measures.
In fact, for both self-esteem and mood, the least amount of activity – just five minutes – was associated with the greatest improvement.
The authors lay out the background for their study by pointing out that the World Health Organization estimates that “[p]hysical inactivity results in 1.9 million deaths worldwide annually, roughly 1 in 25 of all deaths.” Because so many people tend to have “sedentary and indoor lifestyles” nowadays, as well as suffer more chronic health and mental health issues than in the past, the authors were particularly interested in exploring how outdoor activities might affect well-being.
They looked at how much time the 1,252 participants spent taking part in activities like walking, bicycling, fishing, gardening, farming, and boating, and looked at how the their self-esteem and mood ratings changed before and after beginning their “green exercise interventions.”
The researchers conclude by saying that “[e]xposure to nature via green exercise can thus be conceived of as a readily available therapy with no obvious side effects.” So take a little time where you have it – even five minutes – to take a walk in the park or enjoy a new hobby outside.