Posts tagged ‘exercise’

Get out!

A recent analysis of 10 studies that involved more than 1,250 participants found that physical activity in the presence of nature—known as “green exercise”—has a tremendous influence on mental health. The positive effects on self-esteem and mood were magnified when people were actively engaged in a physical task (e.g., walking, gardening, cycling) near a body of water.

One of the more interesting discoveries is that it only took five minutes (!) of movement in a park, along a trail, or in a garden to achieve the greatest effect on mental health.

Jo Barton and Jules Pretty at the University of Essex, authors of the study, explain some of the implications, especially for the treatment of stress, depression, and other types of mental anguish. An excerpt:

The results show acute short-term exposures to facilitated green exercise improves both self-esteem and mood irrespective of duration, intensity, location, gender, age, and health status….

The findings also suggest that those who are currently sedentary, nonactive, and/or mentally unwell would accrue health benefits if they were able to undertake regular, short-duration physical activity in accessible (probably nearby) green space. Such doses of nature will contribute to immediate mental health benefits. As with smoking, giving up inactivity and urban-only living results in immediate and positive health outcomes, even from short duration and light activity such as walking….

The outcomes do suggest a new priority for frontline environmental and health professionals—a regime of doses of nature may be prescribed for anyone, but will have a greater effect for the inactive or stressed and mentally ill, or at presurgery (source) or for recovery (source). Employers, for example, could encourage staff in stressful workplaces to take a short walk at lunchtime in the nearest park to improve mental health, which may in turn affect productivity. A particular focus should be on children: regular outdoor play brings immediate health benefits, and may instill healthy behaviors early in life (source)…. And outdoor free-play is vital for development and cognitive skills (source).


“What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis.”
Jo Barton and Jules Pretty
Environmental Science & Technology
, Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/es903183r
Publication Date (Web): March 25, 2010
Online access:


May 6, 2010 at 9:52 am 2 comments

Run like a rat

Researchers at Princeton University recently made a remarkable discovery about the brains of rats that exercise…

The “cells born from running,” the researchers concluded, appeared to have been “specifically buffered from exposure to a stressful experience.” The rats had created, through running, a brain that seemed biochemically, molecularly, calm.

From a great NYT story on “Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious.”

November 20, 2009 at 5:49 am Leave a comment

Lehrer on alcohol and exercise

A counterintuitive finding: people who regularly drink alcohol also exercise more. Obviously, there are plenty of confounding variables here – maybe drinkers exercise in order to burn off that six-pack of beer – but it’s yet another piece of evidence suggesting that booze, at least when consumed in moderation, isn’t a public health threat.

More here.

September 2, 2009 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

TriFuel: The Exact Gym Workout to Do During Race Season

With videos of each exercise:

“The Exact Gym Workout to Do During Race Season.”

Station 1: Hip External Rotators

Exercise 1: Band Side Walks – 20 steps in each direction

Exercise 2: Hip Hikes – 10 per side

Exercise 3: Ice Skaters- 10 per side

Station 2: Shoulder External Rotators

Exercise 1: Bow Row – 10 per side

Exercise 2: Lateral Step with Reverse Fly – 10 per side

Exercise 3: Pull-ups or Pull-downs – 10 (no video, you know how to do these)

Station 3: Core External Rotators

Exercise 1: Side Plank Rotations – 10 per side

Exercise 2: Cable Torso Twists – 15 per side

Exercise 3: Woodchoppers – 10 per side

By incorporating this routine at least once per week during race season, you will be working the exact muscles necessary to keep you injury free AND make you faster.

August 21, 2009 at 11:06 am Leave a comment

Moved to learn

Research indicates exercise primes students for learning — Fit children may have less stress, longer attention spans, better memories and be more prepared to learn, according to recent research. Struggling students who took a physical-education class prior to an algebra class improved their test scores by 20.4%, compared with 3.9% improvement for other students, according to data from an Illinois high school. Click to read “A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind,” an article by Vanessa Richardson published in the June edition of Edutopia magazine that describes the research and science about how physical activity, especially strength and cardio exercises,  helps kids to boost their brainpower in schools.

June 5, 2009 at 5:42 am Leave a comment

Predicting healthy aging

One of the most comprehensive and longest longitudinal studies of adult development — certainly of adult American males — is the Harvard Grant Study. Among its findings:

There are “seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically,”

  • Employing mature adaptions, e.g. “altruism, humor, anticipation (looking ahead and planning for future discomfort), suppression (a conscious decision to postpone attention to an impulse of conflict, to be addressed in good time), and sublimation (finding outlets for feelings, like putting aggression into sport, or lust into courtship)”;
  • Education;
  • Stable marriage;
  • Not smoking;
  • Not abusing alcohol;
  • Some exercise;
  • Healthy weight.

Half of the men studied with at least five of these protective factors were classified as “happy-well” at age 80, and 7.5% percent were classified as “sad-sick.” In contrast, not a single man who had three or fewer of these factors by the age of 50 could be classified as “happy-well” at age 80. And controlling for physical fitness and health, “the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors.”

This information comes from Joshua Wolf Shenk’s lengthy and fascinating article for the Atlantic Monthly, titled “What Makes Us Happy?

What has no bearing on our ability “to work and love as we grow old”? Some surprises: “Cholesterol levels at age 50 have nothing to do with health in old age.”

Also, “Reguar exercise in college predicted late-life mental health better than did physical health.”

Fun fact: President John F. Kennedy was a subject in the Grant Study.

More here.

play, think…
J.R. Atwood

May 27, 2009 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

Congress: Time to get PHIT

I applaud the spirit of a new piece of legislation making its way through the halls of Congress for its focus on preventative care.

H.R. 215, The Personal Health Investment Today Act of 2009, introduced today by Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), would “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to treat certain amounts paid for physical activity, fitness, and exercise as amounts paid for medical care.”


The PHIT Act would change current federal tax law to allow for the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. Americans could invest up to $2,000 annually to pay for physical activities by investing money in existing pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA) and/or medical reimbursement arrangements.  PHIT would only expand the expenses eligible for reimbursement to include physical activity costs as a form of prevention; PHIT would not increase contribution limits to these accounts. Once an individual or family spends 7.5% of their income on qualified medical expenses, they could deduct physical activity expenses directly.

To read the full text of the bill and to track it through the legislative process, click here.

play, think…
J. R. Atwood

April 30, 2009 at 4:36 pm Leave a comment

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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