‘Green’ Exercise Provides Numerous Health Benefits for Children

Going Green refers to engaging in activities that are ecologically beneficial. However, “green” exercise is a term that describes physical activities conducted in natural settings as opposed to indoors. The positive effect of exercise on mental health has been well established. In recent years, researchers have looked at how the impact of green exercise differs from nongreen exercise and the findings have been somewhat promising. Some studies have indicated that adults who engage in green exercise report increases in self-esteem as a result. Others suggest decreases in stress are more apparent after green exercise when compared to traditional indoor exercise.

Although there are many reasons that could explain these findings, one of the most commonly agreed upon reasons green exercise may benefit self-esteem is that exercise performed in nature provides distraction from daily stressors. Further, people who interact with nature while they exercise may not consider their activity as strenuous or rigorous as those who are focused solely on the exercise activity itself.

Despite the fact that studies on adults have shown some hopeful results, there is little research on green exercise and children. Therefore, Katharine Reed of the University of Essex’s School of Biological Sciences in the United Kingdom recently conducted a study involving 75 children who were 11 and 12 years old. The children were evaluated after they completed a 1.5 mile run in an urban setting one week and then a similar run in a natural setting the following week. Reed also measured self-esteem, perceived difficulty, and enjoyment.

The findings revealed that there were no differences in self-esteem ratings after the urban or natural run, and surprisingly, there were no differences in enjoyment and difficulty, either. This was unexpected, as the natural setting run required more effort because it was on natural turf, which included wet ground and hills. Despite these challenges, the children said both runs required equal effort. This could suggest that green exercise was actually less strenuous than urban exercise.

Also, the lack of difference in enjoyment ratings implies that regardless of the additional physical effort that may have been required to complete the natural run, the children enjoyed both runs equally. Reed notes that these interesting findings should not be overlooked and could benefit children that might otherwise avoid exercise. She said, “We tentatively suggest that green exercise may offer an enjoyable and accessible form of physical activity to less active children who may not typically be well-engaged in physical education.”

Reed, K., Wood, C., Barton, J., Pretty, J.N., Cohen, D., et al. (2013). A repeated measures experiment of green exercise to improve self-esteem in UK school children. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69176. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069176

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The preceding article summarizes research or news from periodicals or related source material in the fields of mental health and psychology. GoodTherapy.org did not participate in or condone any studies, or conclucions thereof, that may have been cited. Any views or opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org.

  • Leave a Comment
  • harris

    August 9th, 2013 at 12:10 AM

    Id much rather live on a farm than to live in the hustle bustle of the city all my life.saving up for it and quite frankly city life is extremely stressful,especially so in terms of health.

  • Nadine

    August 9th, 2013 at 4:23 AM

    No matter what kind of exercise we are talking about here I think that we would all agree that any kind of exercise is better for our children than no ecercise at all. Of course there will be some forms that some of us enjoy more than others and there will be certain types that are more beneficial than others. But at some point a lot of this is about getting children interested in fitness and exercise and the way it makes your body feel, the benefits that it has both in the short and the long term, as well as the importance of making it a part of everyday life. The part about finding what they love can come later.

  • lola

    August 9th, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    The benefits of getting kids outside to run and play are just too numerous to ignore. Why don’t more parents see that?

  • Natasha

    August 12th, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    Well the benefits of going out and playing are huge but we have to remember that there are those places where it could be unsafe for kids to go out and ride their bikes or even hang out at the playgrounds. That is when it is our duty to provide community and recreation cenetrs that are safe havens for them as well as places that encourage healthy habits and opportunities to move in a meaningful and fun way. These kids don’t need any more places to sit around and play their video games. What they need are facilities and people to encourage them to be active and who provide them with these opportunities in a way that deosn’t feel like a chore to them. Make it fun, engage them now, and you have them for life.

  • A to Z Health

    August 14th, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    Good article, I like exercise. It is good for all kind of people.

  • Five Fitness Club

    August 14th, 2013 at 4:03 AM

    Exercise is good for children as well as all age group of people. It is more beneficial when people do regularly. Staying physically active and exercising regularly can produce long-term health benefits

  • Tiana Gustafson

    November 11th, 2013 at 12:23 AM

    Thank you so much for the awesome information about how to take better care of our bodies. I will look forward to applying the advice and also sharing it with my followers at TianaGustafson.com. I will be back to check out more great content. Thanks again!

  • Situs J.

    March 4th, 2015 at 3:58 AM

    It’s really a great and helpful piece of info. I’m satisfied that you just shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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