Updated: Oct 26, 2022
Literary Review - Kaitlin Calla
Is Comfortable and Happy the same?
How would you report your own mental health? Maybe you find comfort when you are scrolling through social media, in line for a coffee at your regular spot, opening your porch delivery, or perhaps when you have time to catch up on the latest Netflix series.
Van Marken Lichtenbelt, a researcher in nutrition and movement sciences at Maastricht University in the Netherlands asks the question, “We always think in terms of comfort, but why not think in terms of pleasure?” (J. B. Mackinnon, 2021).
Pleasure, happiness and very good general health and mental health are on average declining in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2021). According to data from the Canadian Community Health Survey - Annual Component 67% of Canadians reported their mental health to be excellent or very good in 2019.
At the beginning of the pandemic, April 2020, this proportion fell to 54% and by April of 2021 it dropped to 48%. When the totals were divided into men and women, in April of 2021 men were (53%) more likely than women (44%) to report excellent or very good mental health.
Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
Research by Rachel C. Colley and her team might have a solution to this downward trend of mental health. Pre Covid 19 only 1 in 5 Canadian adults are meeting the target of 150 minutes per week of activity levels.
Symptoms of anxiety, anger and depression are reduced with exercise, specifically outdoors (Colley et al. 2020). More women reported very good or excellent mental health if they were exercising outdoors (54%) compared to those who were not (41%). The study also notes that avoiding excessive screen time in combination with outdoor activity are key behaviours for Canadians to practice for overall health benefits (Colley et al. 2020).
The term ‘green exercise’ was adopted in 2003 and refers to the health benefits that occur when exercise is performed in nature (Gladwell et al. 2013). There is evidence that suggests that exercise may feel easier when performed in the natural environment.
When allowed to self-select walking speed, participants often walk faster outdoors compared to indoors; however, they reported lower perceived exertion (Gladwell et al. 2013).
This field of research continues to grow; green exercise reduces perceived effort and allows individuals to work at greater workloads, which in turn can drive adaptation and advance results. Music and green exercise both fall into the category of distractive stimuli. Additionally, both reduce physiological sensations and negative emotions that fuel optimal performance.
One study asked participants to cycle for 5 minutes under three different conditions. Condition 1 - cycle while viewing a video showing predominantly green foliage. Condition 2 - same video with a red filter. Condition 3 - same video with no colour.
Heart rate and oxygen consumption did not vary between the three conditions however overall mood was highest while viewing the green images (Gladwell et al. 2013).
If participants report being happier we can reasonably expect more frequent activity and therefore more individuals meeting exercise recommendations.
Practical Personal Examples
Depending on your community, the green spaces you have access to will vary. For myself, most of the time I complete my conditioning training outdoors. In the summer that may be interval training at the local track and in the cooler months that is often a Saturday morning hike with varying terrain at a conservation area.
My yoga practice is often in the studio but is not limited to those walls. I like to roll out my mat on the back deck or at a local park too. Very recently my passion for the outdoors and exercise has taken me to the slopes and a new love for snowboarding.
When I am outside exercising, I often find an interesting overlap of solitude and connectedness. An opportunity to breathe more deeply, smile more than just on the surface and find inner calm and clarity.
I need a training program that compliments my lifestyle. The principles of Alliance Athletics allow me to adapt my training where needed so I can get outside and train. The freedom and empowerment this provides help maintain consistency and enjoyment of training.
Does this sound like something you would like to learn more about? Let me know! Thanks for reading.
@Kaitiecd on Instagram
Exercise and screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic. (2020, July 15). Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2020006/article/00001-eng.htm
Gladwell, V. F., Brown, D. K., Wood, C., Sandercock, G. R., & Barton, J. L. (2013, January 3). The great outdoors: How a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extreme physiology & medicine. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710158/.
MacKinnon, J. B. (2021). The Day the World Stops Shopping Lib/E: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves. HarperCollins.