New research from the UK finds that children exposed to scenes of nature while exercising are more likely to experience health-enhancing effects after their activity.
In the study, researchers asked kids aged nine to 10 years old to complete a series of 15-minute moderate intensity cycling activities, one while viewing a video of a forest track synced to the exercise bike and another with no visual stimulus.
Investigators found that after the “green exercise,” the children’s post-activity blood pressure was significantly lower than it was without the simulated forest environment, indicating that the nature scenes promoted positive health effects.
Data showed that the children’s mean systolic blood pressure — the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats — was 97.2 mmHg a quarter of an hour after green exercise, compared with 102.7 mmHg after normal activity (over five percent lower).
Lower blood pressure is normally associated with a lower risk of developing health problems, whereas high blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Prior studies have found that outdoor exercise improves mental well-being and is associated with greater enjoyment and satisfaction.
The Coventry University study is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
“Hypertension is a chronic health problem across the world, so given the results we’ve seen in our study it’s crucial that we continue to try to understand the role physical activity and — in particular — green exercise plays in blood pressure,” said sports and exercise researcher Michael Duncan, Ph.D., lead author of the study.
“If there is indeed a correlation between viewing scenes of nature and a lower blood pressure post-exercise, as indicated by our data, it could have very positive implications in encouraging public health practitioners to prescribe outdoor exercise to reduce health risk.”
This article first appeared on Psych Central on 8 April, 2014.