Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Running in the woods twice as good as running in a gym for mental health

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Running in the woods twice as good as running in a gym for mental health

Researchers have found that walking or running outdoors in a natural environment like a park or woodland can have a positive effect on people suffering from depression and anxiety.

The study showed that the positive effect on people's mental health was 50 per cent more than they might expect from going to the gym. The researchers at Glasgow University found that being around trees and grass lowered brain stress levels.

The study, led by Prof Richard Mitchell, polled nearly 2000 physically active people. In an interview, Prof Mitchell said he was "surprised" by the scale of the results, adding: "There was around a 50 per cent improvement in people’s mental health if they were physically active in the natural environment, compared to those who weren't. These aren't serious mental health issues, more struggles in general life, things like mild depression, not being able to sleep, high stress levels or just feelings of not being able to cope. It seems that woodland and forest seem to have the biggest effect on helping to lower mental health problems. That makes sense with what we thought we knew. That is, the brain likes to be in the natural environment and it reacts to being there by turning down our stress response.
 Being in areas that have lots of trees and grassy areas help to calm us down, and obviously a forest has this. I wasn't surprised by the findings that exercise in natural environments is good for your mental health, but I was surprised by just how much better it is for your mental health to exercise in a green place like a forest, than in other places like the gym. The message to doctors, planners and policy makers is that these places need protecting and promoting."

He added that taking a decision to exercise in a natural environment once a week could be enough to gain some benefit, and any additional use could have a bigger effect.


Unknown said...

I couldn't agree more! I run with Cork Orienteers every Tuesday evening and it's a great stress-buster. Plus a welcome break from pounding on the tarmac roads and footpaths. Next week we're off to Ballyannon Wood near Midleton, all are welcome to come along, we're a friendly bunch! More details at

Anonymous said...

An other great park to gain the above benefits is Donerale Forest Park...well worth a visit ....Mallow AC runners go there on a regular basis . John Holland

Derek said...

+1 for Doneraile park