What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health?
This study shows positive returns from short engagements in green exercise and confirms that the environment provides an important health service.
Barton, Jo, and Pretty, Jules. (2010). What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis. Environmental Science and Technology. 44 (10): 3947–3955. DOI: 10.1021/es903183r
Green exercise is activity in the presence of nature. Evidence shows it leads to positive short and long-term health outcomes. This multistudy analysis assessed the best regime of dose(s) of acute exposure to green exercise required to improve self-esteem and mood (indicators of mental health).
The research used meta-analysis methodology to analyze 10 UK studies involving 1252 participants. Outcomes were identified through a priori subgroup analyses, and dose−responses were assessed for exercise intensity and exposure duration. Other subgroup analyses included gender, age group, starting health status, and type of habitat. The overall effect size for improved self-esteem was d = 0.46 (CI 0.34−0.59, p < 0.00001) and for mood d = 0.54 (CI 0.38−0.69, p < 0.00001).
Dose responses for both intensity and duration showed large benefits from short engagements in green exercise, and then diminishing but still positive returns. Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generated greater effects. Both men and women had similar improvements in self-esteem after green exercise, though men showed a difference for mood. Age groups: for self-esteem, the greatest change was in the youngest, with diminishing effects with age; for mood, the least change was in the young and old. The mentally ill had one of the greatest self-esteem improvements.