Green exercise

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Type classification: this is a notes resource.

Overview[edit | edit source]

There is growing interest in the potential physical and mental health benefits of green exercise (exercising in natural environments).

This page contains some research notes and summaries for those conducting or interested in green exercise research.

Goals[edit | edit source]

Goals this resource is working towards include:

  1. Understanding what "green exercise" is.
  2. Reviewing the theoretical and empirical green exercise literature
  3. Documenting theories, models, and processes involved in the physical and psychology effects of "green exercise".
  4. Developing methodologies to better understand the potential benefits and mechanisms of green exercise.

What is green exercise ?[edit | edit source]

"Green exercise is activity in the presence of nature." (Barton & Pretty, 2010, p. 3947)

Green exercise is physical activities undertaken whilst exposed to natural environments (Pretty et al., 2005).

Green exercise, in its simplest form, is physical exercise performed in (relatively) natural environments (Mackay & Neill, 2010[1]; Neill, 2009[2]).

Examples of green exercise[edit | edit source]

What does "green" really mean?[edit | edit source]

"Green" is a somewhat problematic term and interpretation of "green" warrants further consideration. "Green" is a proxy for "natural" - or the relatively absence of "artificial".

"Greenness" can be conceptualised and measured:

  • Objectively: e.g., Sugiyama, Leslie, Giles-Corti, and Owen (2008) define “green” environments as vegetated areas such as parks, open spaces, and playgrounds.
  • Subjectively: e.g., green exercise as exercise performed in environments with a greater ratio of natural to artificial elements than is typically encountered by that person in everyday life.

There is also the issue of green vs. natural. They do not always go together. Many natural environments are not green (and some artificial environments are green). Thus, the green in green exercise is not meant literarally, but rather figuratively to refer to naturalness (vs. artificialness) of an environment. Further conceptualisation and measurement of “greenness”, particularly as a psychological construct, however, remains underexplored (Bodin & Hartig, 2003).

Theory[edit | edit source]

Understandings of green exercise potential can potentially draw on and test aspects of several different theories including:

Research summary[edit | edit source]

University of Essex[edit | edit source]

The main researcher in the area of green exercise to date has been Professor Jules Pretty et al. at the University of Essex. The key studies are:

  • Pretty et al. (2005)
  • Pretty et al. (2007)
  • Barton & Pretty (2010). [3]
  • See for a summary of their research work.

(p. 16,


University of Canberra[edit | edit source]

  1. Neill et al. - see
  2. Mackay (2008) and Mackay and Neill (2010)
  3. Holgate (2010)
  4. Rugendyke (2012)
  5. Neill, Mackay, Holgate, & Rugendyke (2012)

Deakin[edit | edit source]

  1. See Townsend et al.
  2. Townsend, M. & Ebden, M. (2006). 'Feel Blue, Touch Green': Final report of a project undertaken by Deakin University, Barwon Helath, Parks Victoria, Alcoa Angelsea, ANGAIR and Surf Coast Shire. Retrieved from,%20Touch%20Green.pdf

QUT[edit | edit source]

  1. See Brymer et al.
  2. Brymer, E., Cuddihy, T. F., & Sharma-Brymer, V. (2010). The role of nature-based experiences in the development and maintenance of wellness. Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, 1, 21-28.

Research and discussion questions[edit | edit source]

Some possible research and/or discussion questions:

  1. What kind of green exercise do you participate in?
    1. Type of activity?
    2. Length of time?
    3. Location?
    4. Intensity?
    5. Alone or with others?
    6. How "green" (natural) is the exercise?
    7. Is it informally or formally organised?
  2. What happens to you when you participate in green exercise?
  3. How does a green exercise experience differ (if at all) from physical exercise in non-natural environments?
  4. What do you like about green exercise?
  5. What do you not like about green exercise?
  6. How much green exercise would you ideally like to do?
  7. What would be your 'ideal' green exercise experience?
    1. Is this a one off or a routine?
  8. What enables green exercise?
  9. What are the barriers to green exercise?
  10. What is the role of cognition during green exercise? e.g., what is the impact of using associative, dissociative, and environmental thinking during GE?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Mackay, G. J. S., & Neill, J. T. (2010). The effect of “green exercise” on state anxiety and the role of exercise duration, intensity, and greenness: A quasi-experimental study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11(3), 238-245
  2. Neill, J. T. (2009). Green exercise: The psychological effects of exercising in nature. ORIC conference presentation. preparation.
  3. Barton, J. & Pretty, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, doi:10.1021/es903183r.

Bratman, G. N. Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning.

Hansmann, R., Hug, S., & Seeland, K. (2007). Restoration and stress relief through physical activities in forests and parks. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6(4), 213-225.

Wooller, J. J., Barton, J., Gladwell, V. F., & Micklewright, D. (2015). Occlusion of sight, sound and smell during Green Exercise influences mood, perceived exertion and heart rate. International Journal of Environmental Health Research.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]