Friday, June 22, 2012

Jogging In The Forest (Twice As Good As A Trip To The Gym In Most Forests When The Aliens And Satanists Aren't About)

Exercising in a natural environment like a park or forest is far better for mental health than the gym, researchers have found Photo: ALAMY

A jog through a forest can cut the risk of suffering from mental health problems and is twice as good for you as working out in the gym, according to a survey.

By Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent, The Telegraph

12:27PM BST 20 Jun 2012

Researchers found that anything from a stroll in the park to a run through woodland can have a positive effect on people suffering from depression and anxiety.

The study also showed that the positive effect on people's mental health was 50 per cent more than they might expect from going to the gym.

The researchers at Glasgow University looked at natural and non-natural environments for physical activity, including walking, running and cycling, and found that being around trees and grass lowered brain stress levels.

The study, led by Prof Richard Mitchell, polled nearly 2000 physically active people in the 2008 Scottish Health Survey.

Only activities carried out in a natural environment outdoors were found to be associated with a lower risk of poor mental health. 

Prof Mitchell said he was "surprised" by the scale of the results, adding: "There was around a 50 per cent improvement in people’s mental health if they were physically active in the natural environment, compared to those who weren't.

"These aren't serious mental health issues, more struggles in general life, things like mild depression, not being able to sleep, high stress levels or just feelings of not being able to cope. 

"It seems that woodland and forest seem to have the biggest effect on helping to lower mental health problems.

"That makes sense with what we thought we knew. That is, the brain likes to be in the natural environment and it reacts to being there by turning down our stress response. 

"Being in areas that have lots of trees and grassy areas help to calm us down, and obviously a forest has this. 

"I wasn't surprised by the findings that exercise in natural environments is good for your mental health, but I was surprised by just how much better it is for your mental health to exercise in a green place like a forest, than in other places like the gym.

"The message to doctors, planners and policy makers is that these places need protecting and promoting."

He added that taking a decision to exercise in a natural environment once a week could be enough to gain some benefit, and any additional use could have a bigger effect. 

The study revealed that local streets were most commonly used for physical activity, followed by the home or garden. 

Previous experimental studies have shown that exercise in natural environments has a positive effect on "biomarkers", which indicate general health, and on an individual's view of his or her levels of stress or fatigue.

Around 50 per cent of the sampled group exercised in a natural environment at least once in the previous month. 

NOTE:  The findings detailed in Scottish Correspondent Auslan Cramb’s June 20 Telegraph article do not surprise me in the least, but I would hasten to add that, as any casual movie-goer or X-Files fan knows, care must be exercised while journeying through forests.  To borrow the phrase that titled one of my daughter’s early-learning videos, one should always "Stay On the Safe Side.”   

Know where you’re going;  Return home well before dark;  Don't make trouble for others.  If you run into Mulder and Scully, you're clearly in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.

One specific note to the girl in the topmost photo: Take off your damn headphones.  The whole point of running outside is to experience the sights, fragrances and sounds of nature.

Prof  Mitchell’s final advice to “policy makers” could, I think, profitably be supplemented by a further recommendation that all of these individuals be removed forthwith from their city sanctuaries and banished to the deep forests for their and our mutual benefit.  As is the rule at my daughter’s summer camp, No Electronics Allowed.   Silence is golden.


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