Mackay Neill 2010 The effect of green exercise on state anxiety

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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. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2010.01.002


Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the short-term effects of “green exercise” on state anxiety, and to examine the influence of exercise type, intensity, duration, and degree of greenness.

Method: A quasi-experimental design involved eight pre-existing outdoor exercise groups (N = 101) who completed pre- and post-exercise questionnaires.

Results: Results indicated a significant reduction in participants’ state anxiety following green exercise experiences (d = .47). However, there was a significant interaction between anxiety changes and the type of green exercise, with effect sizes for the groups ranging between 0.14 and 1.07. Exercise intensity and duration did not impact on state anxiety changes, however higher degrees of perceived environmental greenness were associated with larger reductions in anxiety.

Conclusions: Green exercise effected moderate short-term reductions in anxiety, with greater reductions evident for some exercise groups and for participants who perceived themselves to be exercising in more natural environments. These findings support claims for mental health benefits of green exercise but they also highlight the need to better understand individual and group differences and the role of perceived environmental “greenness”.

Key words

Green exercise; Anxiety; Exercise intensity; Exercise duration; Greenness; Sport psychology

Article outline


Psychological effects of exercise
Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety
Exercise duration
Exercise intensity
Green exercise
Nature, mental health, and restoration
Engagement with nature
Viewing nature
Presence of nature
Participation with nature
Green exercise research


Greenness rating scale
Borg scale


Changes in state anxiety for different exercise groups
Effects of greenness, duration, and intensity of green exercise


Changes in state anxiety following green exercise
Changes in state anxiety for different green exercise groups
Effects of level of greenness, duration, and intensity of green exercise on state anxiety
Nature, greenness and exercise
Mechanisms for anxiety reduction from green exercise
Limitations and future directions




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