Go Outside for Natural Stress Relief: Scientific Benefits of Green Exercise

Shirley's Top 3 Green Exercise Tips:

1. Make it a priority to spend a few minutes outdoors on most, if not all, days of the week.

2. If getting outside is not possible, fill your house and office with plants to stimulate a sense of nature and to clean the air.

3. Get screensavers of beautiful lush landscapes and do meditations like the "Tree Meditation for Grounding and Centering" (I have a series of nature meditations.) Remember that what the mind experiences as real, even if only virtual, can provide some of the same benefits as the authentic experience.

What exactly is Green Exercise?

This refers to intentionally exercising outdoors to enjoy both physical benefits and a huge number of other health benefits that we don't gain from the same amount of indoor movement. Scientists have been comparing identical activities done indoors and outdoors. The research results are fascinating.

Some benefits of doing the same activity outdoors include:

* More stress relief

* Clearer thinking and improved concentration

* More happiness

* Better self-confidence

* More energization and feelings of being refreshed

* Less fatigue for same amount of physical work

* Improved quantity and quality of sleep at night

* Enhanced mindfulness or present moment awareness

Suggested reasons for why being outside offers more health benefits include: 

1. Builds stronger feelings of connection. Outside, we're often with friends, family or pets. We see wildlife and feel more at one with nature and others. This can stimulate happy memories and spiritual feelings.

2. Awakens senses and encourages presence. All senses are open and alive outdoors. We feel wind and heat or cold, hear birds and insects, taste air, smell grass, trees or the sea and touch the earth. Going barefoot, swimming in open water, feeling sand or dirt—this connects and stimulates us. Mindfulness is nothing but present moment awareness and nature brings us into now.

3. Physically challenges us. The ground is uneven, terrain can be unpredictable. We need to pay attention and use our bodies to navigate. This creates a sense of achievement and builds confidence. Think about when you made a sand castle or finished a hike. Wasn't it a great feeling?

4. Allows digital and urban detox. Modern living is filled with digital stimulation, urban noise and pollution, and stresses of traffic and technology. Being in nature disconnects us and allows for recharging.

5. Soothes us with green colors. In nature, we often experience green and blue colors. Exposure to these colors, especially green, seems to have a calming and simultaneous energizing effect. For example, in a study of cyclists, mood was calmer and exertion was less while immersed in a green environment compared to the same activity with exposure to other colors or gray. The study is in Environmental Science & Technology.

Study author Dominic Micklewright, PhD, associate dean of the University of Essex Online in the school of biological sciences, said, “There is lots of evidence now that exercising in natural environments has positive physiological and psychological therapeutic effects, but what our most recent study has begun to explore are the cognitive mechanisms responsible for such effects. We are hoping that through further studies we will be able to gain a much better understanding of how people perceive and respond to natural environments, which will enable us to capitalize on the therapeutic potential that such environments offer.”

In the video below, I'll show you how to do a tree meditation, the health benefits of connecting with nature and of using nature to center and ground yourself and the benefits of green exercise. The Tree Meditation for centering and grounding is a way to enhance your connection with nature and experience the scientific benefits of green exercise.


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The benefits of simply spending time outdoors is so great that organizations are beginning to use "eco-therapy" or "forest therapy" to help patients with mental health issues like depression or anxiety or even with cancer.  This is growing worldwide and is accepted by leading health organizations in the UK and particularly in Japan.  In the US, there has even been established an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.


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