Research Summary

The health impact of nature exposure and green exercise across the life course: A pilot study

Nature exposure and green exercise during childhood predict adult nature exposure and green exercise, as well as connectedness to nature

International Journal of Environmental Health Research
2020

Physical activity in a natural environment is sometimes referred to as “green exercise” (GE). Related research indicates that GE provides health benefits beyond the benefits of physical activity indoors or in a non-natural environment. Such benefits include reduced stress, depression and blood pressure, and increased self-esteem and mood. Little is known about the impact of childhood GE on adult health. To fill this gap in the GE literature, this study explored relationships between childhood nature exposure and GE and adult nature exposure and GE. It also explored relationships between nature exposure and GE during childhood and adult connectedness to nature.

Forty-five healthy adults (age 54-89) in the UK participated in this study. Most of the participants were female and lived in an urban environment. For this study, the participants wore a heart rate variability (HRV) monitor for 24 hours. They also completed questionnaires assessing (a) childhood and adulthood nature exposure and GE, (b) current connectedness to nature (CN), and (c) perceived stress and well-being.

An analysis of the data revealed a significant positive relationship between childhood nature exposure and GE and adulthood nature exposure and GE, as well as connectedness to nature. The data also indicated that participants with lower connectedness to nature scores had significantly higher stress reactions and less healthy heart rate patterns during sleep.

This research indicates that nature exposure and GE during childhood is a strong predictor of both adult nature exposure and GE and connectedness to nature. The results of this study are consistent with previous research indicating that childhood nature exposure may positively influence nature exposure later in life. Efforts to promote nature exposure and GE during childhood may thus play an important role in ensuring the health of future generations.

Citation
Wood, C. J., & Smyth, N.. (2020). The health impact of nature exposure and green exercise across the life course: A pilot study. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 30(2), 226-235. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09603123.2019.1593327