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Depression & Green Exercise[edit]

What is Depression & What are the Symptoms?[edit]

Depression is a mental illness, where the sufferer experiences intense feelings of misery over an extended period of time. Symptoms include: a dysphoric mood, changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, changes in motor activity, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, diminished ability to concentrate and suicidal thoughts [8]


Causes of depression can be biological, psychodynamic, behavioural and/or cognitive [8]

What is Green Exercise?[edit]

Green exercise is exercising outdoors while at the same time being exposed directly to nature. It can be anything from exercising in the backyard, at a park, to walking trails or anywhere in open space, as long as it’s not indoors! [1, 2]

How it Helps in Treating Depression [1, 2, 7][edit]

  • Improves physical health, self-esteem and mood
  • Helps you sleep better (fresh air workouts help some people sleep deeper)
  • Can strengthen the immune system by increasing the number of cells that act to fight cancer
  • Helps to reduce stress levels
  • Exercising in nature makes participants less depressed, angry, tense and confused
  • People who exercise in areas with is water present, such as lakes or rivers, show the biggest improvements in mental health
  • Promotes concentration and clear thinking


  • It’s free! No need to pay gym membership
  • No waiting for gym equipment/machines, and no pressure to hurry up
  • Not limited by gym opening hours
  • Less likely to become bored than those who train in the gym [2]
  • Exercise any time


Other behaviours such as smoking, over-eating and high alcohol consumption are coping mechanisms for depression sufferers. Depression is also known to be a major risk factor for other chronic diseases such as asthma, arthritis, diabetes, stroke and heart disease.[3]

Costs and Occurrence[edit]

In 2001, 121 million people were estimated to have depression worldwide [4]

  • Depression imposes a significant burden on patient and family well-being, health-care costs and loss of productivity [5].
  • By 2020, the World Health Organization estimates that depression and depression related illnesses will become the greatest source of ill health [3]

Recommendations for Implementing Green Exercise into my Lifestyle[edit]

  • Exercise in nature-it can be as simple as going for a walk around a lake/along a river, or doing yoga in the park
  • Low intensity exercise is recommended over high or moderate intensity exercise as low intensity has a tendency to keep participants exercising outdoors longer [6]

Where can I go to Get More Information?[edit]


1. International Council on Active Aging Research, 2010, ‘Research in the News’, Journal on Active Aging, vol. 9, no 4, pp. 22-26

2. Parachin, V., 2011, ‘Green Exercise’, American Fitness, vol. 29, no 5, pp. 44-45

3. Pretty, J., Peacock, J., Sellens, M., & Griffin, M., 2005, ‘The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise’, International Journal of Environmental Health Research, vol. 15, no 5, pp. 319-337

4. Mauskopf, J.A., Simon, G.E., Kalsekar, A., Nimsch, C., Dunayevich, E., & Cameron, A., 2009, ‘Nonresponse, partial response, and failure to achieve remission: a humanistic and cost burden in major depressive disorder’, Depression & Anxiety, vol. 26, pp. 83-97

5. Domino, M.E., Burns, B.J., Mario, J., Reinecke, M.A., Vitiello, B., Weller, E.B., Kratochvil, C.J., May, D.E., Feny, N.C., Robins, M., Hallin, M.J., Silva, S.G., & March, J.S., 2009, ‘Service use and costs of care for depressed adolescents: Who uses and who pays?’, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, vol. 36, no 6, pp. 826-836

6. 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, vol. 44. no 10, pp. 3947-3955

7. Archer, S., 2007, ‘Body-mind benefits of green exercise’, IDEA Fitness Journal, vol. 4, no 9, pp. 97

8. Beck, A.T., & Alford, B.A., 2009, ‘Depression: Causes and treatments’, 2nd edition, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia