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For someone who was banished to the wilderness, that Grizzly Adams sure did smile a lot. Though it could just be that the actor who played him knew he had a dazzling set of pearly whites, I like to think it had more to do with his constant gallivanting through the woods. Turns out I may have been onto something: Research released this past weekend in the journal Environmental Science & Technology suggests that spending time in nature can boost both mood and self-esteem. No wonder bears and raccoons have so few complexes.
According to the study, just five minutes of exercise in the great outdoors can give you a mental health lift. The researchers at the University of Essex examined data from 1,252 people, and looked at activities as diverse as farming, gardening, walking, boating, horseback-riding, cycling and fishing. Though everyone benefited from so-called “green exercise,” younger people and those with mental health problems seemed to have the most positive improvements to their mental states.
If, like me, you live in a bustling metropolis, fear not: frolicking in public parks and gardens proved just as beneficial as working on a farm or hiking in a meadow. The only natural environments that seemed to have an edge over the others were ones with water. According to lead researcher Jules Pretty, “A blue and green environment seems even better for health.” Past studies have shown that even a view of natural landscape from your window can improve your outlook.
The only thing I can see from my office window is the building next door to me that’s under construction. Definitely not the most uplifting view. Luckily, now that spring is here, I am much more likely to take advantage of the park in my neighborhood. Last week, I ran a 4.5-mile loop around the park with my fiancé and our next-door neighbor, Adam. I was pretty sure they were going to leave me in the dust, and had no idea if I’d even be able to make it all the way around. But they didn’t and I did. Between the endorphins, sunshine, fresh air and scenery, I was elated. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun or felt so happy. Since I don’t always have that much time to devote to outdoor pursuits, it’s nice to know that even on my busiest days, all it takes is five minutes to perk myself up. Even though the American College of Sports Medicine recommends getting at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, we know it’s not always possible. Five minutes, though, is completely doable. And considering its benefits, it’s something we should be happy to set aside time for.