What is Green Exercise?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2020
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Green exercise is a term used to describe any type of physical exercise that takes place in a natural environment, rather than in a health club or gym. In addition, this type of natural exercise usually does not involve the use of weight machines or other fitness equipment that is normally found in a gym setting. Instead, the strategies rely on the use of natural means of engaging in activities that promote strength and endurance with as little reliance on equipment as possible.

There is some difference of opinion on exactly what constitutes truly green exercise, even when the activity takes place in a natural setting. For example, one school of thought holds that a truly natural exercise experience requires that the individual wear only clothing constructed with natural fibers. This same line of thinking would hold that barefoot running or walking would be more green and thus more desirable than running or walking wearing any type of manufactured protection on the feet.


A slightly different approach to green exercise places more emphasis on the fresh air, sunshine, and involvement with the natural world and less on the equipment or clothing utilized during the exercise. This would mean that riding a bicycle along a forest path would be considered green exercise, even though the bicycle would not be considered a natural element. In like manner, hiking in the woods or climbing a mountain using standard equipment and protective clothing would also be considered green exercise, since that equipment actually supports the action of interacting with nature.

One of the underlying premises of green exercise is that the strategy helps to reconnect human beings with the natural world, something that has become less and less the case in recent decades. Proponents of this approach to exercising claim that the interaction with nature helps to lower blood pressure, refresh the mind, and actually improve the self-esteem of people who regularly exercise in a natural environment. Mood and mental capabilities are also believed to be positively impacted, since the increased exposure to sunlight helps to increase the production of vitamin D in the body.

Not everyone is convinced that green exercise is inherently more beneficial than working out in a health club or gym. Critics point out that many health clubs are constructed to make ample use of natural light, while also providing the benefits of an environment with controlled levels of humidity and temperature. At the same time, detractors note that use of weight machines and other devices may result in more challenging workouts which help strengthen the heart and lungs in ways that more simplistic exercises in a natural setting would be difficult to manage.


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