Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
The sight of open, untrashed green space while exercising is a balm for our minds and bodies, a group of U.K. researchers has concluded. In a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research (pdf), five groups of 20 subjects exercised on a treadmill while watching a series of scenes projected on a wall.
Four types of scenes were tested—“rural pleasant,” “rural unpleasant,” “urban pleasant” and “urban unpleasant.” The subjects’ blood pressure and two psychological measures—self-esteem and mood—were measured before and after the treadmill sessions. The researchers write:
So: Exercise in itself is a good thing. Exercise in pleasant surroundings is an even better thing. The researchers muse on the societal implications of this:
The interesting thing to me is that none of the subjects actually went outdoors—they simply looked at images of the outdoors. If the mere sight of green space makes us feel better, just imagine what it does when you incorporate all the sensory intangibles of the physical experience: a fresh breeze, fragrant wildflowers, wildlife sightings, clouds rolling past, perhaps a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Maybe for their next study, the researchers will get people off their treadmills and onto their feet or bicycles.
In the meantime, I’m going to bicycle home past a mixture of “urban pleasant” and “urban unpleasant” scenes and on my weekend seek out a nice long, uninterrupted stretch of “rural pleasant.”