Using green exercise as a motivator in health management
Abstract: There has been a rise in mental and physical health conditions due to modern societies’ way of living, encompassed by technological advances, sedentary work environments and a reduction of physical activity conducted outdoors. Moreover, with the current issues regarding covid-19 individuals are now experiencing rises in mental health conditions due to increased social isolation, radical changes to lifestyle, increases in boredom, stress and anxiety. One solution to addressing these health issues may be to encourage individuals to begin conducting more forms of outdoor activity. This has been termed green exercise in the literature. Green exercise has been shown to promote increases in various mental parameters ranging from stress, depression and anxiety to directed attention performance, mood and affect. There are various locations where green exercise can be conducted ranging from public parks, beaches, woodlands, urban greenspaces, sports fields and gardens. During the research conducted for my PhD, a range of research around green exercise and how it can be used to improve the health of the public was completed. Previous reviews have highlighted several limitations of green exercise research and these were addressed. An investigation into the responses of different types of green exercise activities (golf vs. walking) was first studied. This was important, as no previous research had considered whether different responses may occur between different forms of green exercise. As an acute study design was used, it was then deemed important to consider whether responses to green exercise are altered over extended time periods. Moreover, external factors prominent in outdoor exercise were considered in terms of weather and temperature, which had not been considered prior. An outlined weakness of green exercise research is sampling young, ‘healthy’ individuals. The PhD research subsequently sampled individuals living with type 2 diabetes. First a systematic review was conducted to identify whether the combination of nature therapy and individuals living with type 2 diabetes had been studied before. A case study was conducted to understand whether greater improvements were seen within a green exercise environment in comparison to indoor or control conditions. The final areas of the research looked at understanding and profiling the motivations of individuals who currently conduct green exercise. These were categorised for the first time into three types of green exercise; recreational; competitive; adventure sport. It is hoped based on the findings of the discussed research that future studies consider investigating different forms of green exercise conducted by various sub-groups of the population. Further, that long term there is an increase in the number of people conducting green exercise.