Presentation Jules Pretty

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The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Green Exercise : 

The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Green Exercise Health and Social Care – Views of the Future University of Essex, July 12th 2006 Professor Jules Pretty Department of Biological Sciences


5 M years BP Hunter-gatherers for ~300,000 generations Agriculture for ~600 generations


First cities (Uruk, Babylon, Ur) Modern cities Urbanisation Industrialised society: 6-8 generations

Nutrition Transition: 

Nutrition transition Shift from traditional and local foods, mixed diets, high in fruit and vegetables To refined cereals and sugars, more fats, more processed foods, fewer vegetables Mediterranean diet – gold standard Fruit & veg; olive oil, fish, meat Low in saturated fats and sugar Large increase in diet-related chronic diseases in adults (and now in children) Coronary heart disease, strokes, type II diabetes, cancers (30% caused by diet), obesity Obesity affects > 22% of adults and 16% of children in the UK Nutrition Transition

Physical Activity Transition: 

Dramatic fall in physical activity in past 50 years More sedentary lifestyles – both work and leisure time Both less walking, cycling and less organised sports Ave adult – marathon a week less per week UK Only one third of adults take the 30 minutes moderate exercise 5x per week Less exercise in schools, 60% of primary school children are driven to school Physical Activity Transition


Physical Activity Known to have positive effects on physical and mental health Green Exercise To what extent does physical activity in the presence of green space affect mental and physical well-being? Exposure to Nature Known to have positive effects on mental health The Concept of Green Exercise

Psychological benefits of nature: 

Psychological benefits of nature The Biophilia hypothesis Closeness to nature increases well-being as well as increasing the likelihood of understanding and caring for nature Biophilia – holds that we have “an innate sensitivity to and need for other living things – as we have co-existed for thousands of generations” Nature has a positive and negative emotional impact on us Why do people all over the world have a negative response to spiders and snakes? And not modern dangers such as guns and cars?

A room with a view: 

A room with a view Prisoners Comparison of those in cells facing farmland/trees or prison yard Those with nature views – 24% fewer sick cell visits Hospital patients Comparison of patients in rooms looking out on brick walls or trees Patients with nature views Stayed in hospital for less time Less medication & fewer negative comments in nurses’ notes Nature distraction therapy Bronchoscopy patients – nature scene placed at bedside (still, not moving), and patients provided with tape of nature sounds Significantly better pain control Total cost significantly less than cost of drugs

Exposure to nature: 

Exposure to nature Dental patients Observing a live aquarium before treatment - more relaxed Plants in offices & homes Improve mood and relaxation No plants – more stress Plants less staff absenteeism Less expenditure on drugs and surgery Healing gardens in hospitals Patients report positive changes in mood when visiting gardens Pet owners Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than non-owners (Australia) Fewer visits to doctor (USA) Dog-owners after heart attacks 6x more likely to survive a year after trauma than non-owners

Therapeutic landscapes: 

Therapeutic landscapes Evidence should not be a surprise Yet it does not form much of a part of conservation, health, planning, food, agriculture or environmental agendas Wild places, countryside and urban green space could be promoted as part of health service 1.2 billion visits to country 5 billion visits to urban parks Important part of personal identity created through interactions in specific places What we are is partly constructed through relationships with people and nature If we lack relationships and connections Lose sense of personal identity and self-esteem

Rural and urban views: 

Rural and urban views Green exercise research Controlled conditions (100 subjects) Comparison of 4 types of views while running on treadmill Measured two effects Of difference scenes Of physical activity

Rural and Urban Views: 

Rural and Urban Views

From Green Exercise to Green Care and Green Design: 

From Green Exercise to Green Care and Green Design Green Care Laboratory study of effects of views on cardiac rehabilitation patients Working with The Wilderness Foundation to assess effects of adventure therapy Care Farming – the use of farms and agricultural landscapes for the promotion of physical health and mental well-being Comparison of 6 week programmes for CBT and Green Exercise Green Design Incorporating nature, art and health at hospitals Analysis of environmental improvements for the Environment Agency

Policy Challenges: 

Policy Challenges 1. Increase the number of people participating in green exercise, especially those suffering ill-health those not accessing countryside or green spaces 2. Increase the rate of use by those already participating Health Recommendations Green exercise saves money for NHS Prescribe Gr Ex for those with sedentary lifestyles & overweight problems Redesign hospital grounds and views from window

Green Exercise: 

Green Exercise Brings mental, physical and social health benefits Even from short exposure Health benefits will lead to avoided public health costs (and so save money) Added reason to protect and conserve both countryside and urban green space Many opportunities available Already accessed by reasonably healthy But need to do much more for other social groups Get to children early to change long-term behaviour Forest Schools

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