Neill Mackay Holgate Rugendyke 2012 Green exercise

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The effects of green exercise on stress, anxiety and mood: The role of perceived greenness, exercise cognitions, and connection to nature

NEILL, J. T. (University of Canberra), MCKAY, G. (University of Canberra), HOLGATE, B. (University of Canberra), & RUGENDYKE, A. (University of Canberra)


There is growing interest in and recognition of the importance of the natural environment in people’s physical and psychological well-being. We have known for some time that physical exercise is vital for well-being and also that spending time in relatively natural environments has calming, restorative effects (Maller et al., 2008). What happens when physical exercise is combined with natural environments is now being studied as “green exercise”. Early field and lab-based green exercise studies identified short-term improvements in self-esteem and mood. However, much remains unknown about the mechanisms by which green exercise may create positive effects, the range of psychological impacts, and what types of green exercise can be recommended. In a series of related field studies, the pioneering green exercise research by Jules Pretty and colleagues at the University of Essex (e.g., Barton & Pretty, 2010), has been followed up and extended at the University of Canberra (e.g., Mackay & Neill, 2010), with findings indicating moderate that positive effects on stress, anxiety and mood can be partially explained by perceived greenness, cognitions during exercise, and connectedness to nature, whilst duration and intensity of exercise tends not to predict measured outcomes. This presentation will describe three related green exercise field studies conducted at the University of Canberra, each involving over 10 naturally occurring green exercise groups, with sample sizes over 100 participants. Moderated effects on measured outcomes (stress, anxiety, and mood) are evident, with novel measures developed for these studies to investigate perceived and desired environmental greenness, environmental cognitions during exercise, and Mayer and Frantz’s (2004) measure of connectedness to exercise, offering potential insight into recommended mechanisms for enhancing positive psychological change. Through such studies, green exercise appears to be emerging as a promising, evidence-based, low-cost, preventative and rehabilitative psychological and physical health strategy, with greater understanding about green exercise processes and effects likely to be developed through further replication and application of other research methodologies.



APA style

Neill, J. T., Mackay, G., Holgate, B., & Rugendyke, A. (2012). The effects of green exercise on stress, anxiety and mood: The role of perceived greenness, exercise cognitions, and connection to nature. Paper presented at the 47th Annual Australian Psychological Society Conference, September 27 - 30, Perth, Australia.

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