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Forget the Gym! Try An Open-
Air Workout For Your Mind

Exercising in the open air for just five minutes leads to an immediate improvement in mood and self-esteem, research shows.

Scientists are now calling for doctors to prescribe 'green exercise' - working out in a park or the back garden - for patients who suffer from mental illness.

Dr Jo Barton, a sports scientist who conducted the study for the University of Essex, said that as well as protecting against future health threats, outdoor exercise could even increase life expectancy.

Her research is the first to determine exactly how much time people have to spend in green spaces to decrease the risk of mental illness and improve the sense of well-being.

'The study showed there was a significant increase in people's self-esteem and mood, particularly when they exercised in the wilderness or by water,' Dr Barton said.

'This is because historically we are drawn to water to survive and it is in our genetic make up to be at one with nature.'

Dr Barton and her research colleague Jules Pretty, whose findings are published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, studied more 1,200 people's reactions to 'green' exercise in locations across Britain.

'I think the fact you only have to do it for only five minutes to see a positive effect is encouraging and it's a lot cheaper than the gym,' said Dr Barton.

'Something of light intensity such as a short walk can have as much of a positive impact as a more intensive work out.'

Of mental health patients, she said: 'Too often the first option is to prescribe medication when the medical profession could be encouraging patients to join a walking group instead, for example.

'We believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with green exercise.'

May 3, 2010


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