Natural environments with plant life (forests, urban parks, meadows).
Green spaces may also be incorporated into urban areas.
Outdoor water environments, natural or man-made (lakes, rivers, coastlines, streams).
Physical activity can be land or water-based.
Physical activity in natural environments with vegetation.
Green exercise facilitates healthy physiological and psychological outcomes.
Being physically active in green spaces can deepen your connection with nature.
Green spaces offer a multi-sensory occurrence that may reduce cognitive load and enhance self-perceived mood. Research findings have reported that physical activity in green spaces may reduce stress markers, improve attention and feelings of well-being, induce short-term anxiety reduction, and much more.
Evidence suggests that persons living close to blue spaces may have increased reports of physical activity. There is also evidence suggesting the potential of outdoor blue spaces for eliciting greater perceived feelings of well-being and reduced feelings of psychological stress.
Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA): Physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity in a manner that supports your body's functional capacity and health. The important delineation is HEPA does not overexert or risk physical harm. Examples include power walking, nordic pole walking, a nature walk, hiking, running, climbing, yoga, swimming, cycling, tennis, landscaping, dancing, weight lifting, cardiovascular exercise, etc.
A physically active lifestyle supports preventative health measures and offer a range of health benefits such as improved mood, supporting cognitive health, sleep quality, weight management, lower blood sugar levels, increased pro-social behaviour, and decreased inflammation in the body.
Every move counts!
Stress Management: Practicing relaxation techniques from various mind-body modalities to help cope with emotions, build resiliency, gratitude, and compassion for improved well-being.
We must make it a priority to slow down and allow our minds to rest and recharge to support mental health. Breathing exercises, mindfulness-based practice, meditation, and forest bathing are all wonderful for rejuvenation.
Forest Bathing [Shinrin-Yoku]: Immersing our five senses in the wonder of nature while acknowledging its importance to our health. Slowing down in natural environments can reduce cognitive load, induce mental restoration, reduce blood pressure and increase feelings of vigor.
Forest medicine research has shown that trees emit beneficial phytoncides into the air and when inhaled, it increases natural killer (NK) cell activity and reduces stress hormones.
Physical inactivity and prolonged periods of sitting increase the risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, breathing issues, and cancer.
Upstream health prevention efforts are important tools for health sustainability. They work to determine the scope of the problem and aim to address the root of the issues.
Reducing sedentary lifestyles is not tackled at the individual level. There are various environmental, structural, and social factors that can attenuate physical activity opportunities such as:
- Community-level PA strategies- Look at urban design, walkability, transportation, activity-friendly street design, cycling initiatives, greenspace quality, availability of safe and good quality parks, and the number of local city amenities that encourage leisure and recreation.
- School policies- What are the national and state policies and decision-making structures that constitute PA promotion in schools; is it a unified approach or do approaches differ per region, school board, and school? Are there multi-level interventions for physical activity offered to students? Are there movement breaks for students, after-school programs, or sporting events? Is there sufficient green space for children to play at recess, sufficient play equipment? Are teaching staff aware of the connection between physical activity, cognitive development, and mood for children?
- Workplace policies-Do employers offer bike-to-work schemes, wellness offerings, and incentives, recreation subsidies, or provide transit subsidies or passes? Are there PA policies such as walking meetings or the ability for standing desks?
- Social/cultural behaviours- Social networks, family contacts, and peers can influence your physical activity behaviours. Attitudes, cultural norms, and values are influencing factors for physical activity.
- Family is incredibly influential- Families with children who are active together increase the likelihood of children being physically active in the future.
Increasing population-based physical activity levels should be viewed as a collaborative approach including local government, urban planning, healthy public policy, transportation sectors, occupational health, community-based groups, increasing public perception of PA and encouraging healthy behaviours, and more.