'Green exercise’ in England

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'Green exercise’ in England benefits health to the tune of £2.2 billion a year.

Physical activity in natural environments, or ‘green exercise’, is estimated to provide health benefits of £2.2 billion a year to the English adult population, according to new research published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School and Public Health England analysed data from the world’s largest study on recreational visits to natural places, such as parks, woods and beaches. They estimated that over 8 million adults in England engage in green exercise each week, resulting in over 1.3 billion green exercise visits a year.

Green exercise was defined in the study as nature-based activities of moderate to vigorous intensity and lasting over 30 minutes. Examples included dog walking, running, horse riding, outdoor swimming and mountain biking. Because physical activity needs to be regular and sustained to benefit health, the team focused on those who reported regularly meeting government guidelines for physical activity (i.e. 5 x 30 minutes each week). They then worked out what proportion of these people’s weekly physical activity took place in natural settings and estimated the benefits to health associated with their levels of green exercise if sustained across the year.

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Highland Environment Forum

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