This week at Synergy we are looking at the mental health benefits of not only exercising, but exercising in the presence of nature. This is often referred to as “Green Exercise”.
In Finland, a population study of 3,403 participants ranging from ages 25-64 years found that those engaged in moderate exercise 2-3 times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, distrust, and stress compared to those who exercise less or not at all.  One possible mechanism is biochemical changes, such as an increased level of endorphins, leading to subsequent binding to endogenous opioid receptors in the brain and a sense of wellbeing. Physical activity may also lead to a good night’s sleep.  An often-cited reason for not exercising regularly is lack of time. However, since mental health benefits occur quickly and the recommended amount of daily exercise for physical fitness can be accumulated throughout the day, one only has to take 10 minutes 3 times a day to get the benefits and keep mentally and physically fit. 
The benefits of exercise increase when you take your workout outside! In a multi-study analysis that assessed the best regime of dose(s) of acute exposure to green exercise required to improve self-esteem and mood (indicators of mental health), dose responses for both intensity and duration showed large benefits from short engagements in green exercise. Additionally, in this analysis every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generated even greater effects. Both men and women had similar improvements in self-esteem after green exercise, though men showed a difference for mood. 
Living in the beautiful Upper Peninsula, you can easily incorporate green exercise into your weekly fitness routine! One great option here in Marquette is the Fit Strip! These trails are open and groomed all year round. There are lights present until 11pm. You can ski, bike, run, walk, etc. In the summer, there are exercise stops along the way as well. Most importantly, it’s free to the public! Check out https://www.noquetrails.org/trails/marquette-fit-strip for more information!
Here at Synergy our Certified Personal Trainers enjoy taking our clients outside to challenge them in new and fun ways. Whether it’s snowshoeing in the winter or hikes up Mt. Marquette in the summer, we want our clients feeling their absolute best before, during and after their workout!
 Hassmen P et al. (2000) Physical exercise and psychological wellbeing: a population study in Finland. Preventative Medicine 30 (1): 17-25
 Steinberg H, Sykes EA. (1985) Introduction to symposium on endorphins and behavioural processes: a review of literature on endorphins and exercise. Pharmacology Biochemistry Behavior 23: 857-862.
 Hansen CJ et al. (2001) Exercise duration and mood state: how much is enough to feel better? Health Psychology 20 (4): 267-275
 Barton J, Pretty J (2010) What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? a multi-study analysis. Environmental Science & Technology 44 (10): 3947-3955