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It's healthier to run in the fields than on the treadmill

If you can choose between doing a cardio training session in the gym or running along a river or in the woods, go for the latter. Training in green surroundings is good for your mental health, according to psychologists at the University of Essex. What's more, you don't have to train for long 'in the green' to produce a positive mental effect.

It's healthier to run in the fields than on the treadmill
People generally feel better in a natural environment: in neighbourhoods with lots of greenery, where buildings are covered with plants and in houses that have a garden or look out over fields or forest. The authors of the article that will soon be published in Environmental Science & Technology have been studying the effect of exercise in green surroundings for years. In this particular study they collected the results of ten other studies and reanalysed the results.

All studies had been done at Essex University and none was older than six years. The studies involved 1252 British people who walked, gardened, cycled, fished, rode horses or worked on a farm. The researchers asked their subjects how they felt, and determined their total mood disturbance [TMD]. This is the sum of all the things wed rather not feel, like sombreness, anxiety and disturbance.

Just five minutes of being active outdoors can make you feel noticeably better, according to the researchers' data. If you are active for longer, the effect is reduced, but is still there.

It's healthier to run in the fields than on the treadmill

Serious training is classified as vigorous activity. High-intensity exertion improves your mood considerably.

It's healthier to run in the fields than on the treadmill

Short, intensive training sessions outside will probably have an optimal effect on how your feel, we suggest, basing our speculation on the British data.

All types of natural environments are good for mental health, but one type works slightly better than the rest: beaches and banks of rivers or lakes.

The researchers also looked at their subjects' feelings about themselves. The subjects' self esteem reacted mostly in the same way as their TMD. Because self-esteem is a factor in keeping up a training programme, the researchers think that people who do their training programmes 'in the green' are likely to keep to them for longer.

Environ Sci Technol. 2010 May 15;44(10):3947-55.