by Maureen Cromey
An Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Expert
I always recommend exercise outside for my patients. It’s particularly good for low spirits and emotional anguish. Wonderful for letting off steam and fantastic for immunity and general health. If someone is depressed or feeling very stressed or angry I recommend time spent near water, a river or lake. The Chinese Medicine reason for this is that the yin energy of water soothes and balances our constrained and hurting qi and yang energy. The lovely big wide trees like chestnuts and beech are very yang. They lift our energy and invigorate us. The tall pointy trees like spruce and pine are yin in nature, drawing off negative qi and calming our spirits. A walk in the woods, a paddle in a pond, a dig in the garden or even a cup of tea from the thermos whilst admiring the scenery all feel very good.
To my surprise when I Googled outdoors and health I realised that all this knowledge gathered in Traditional Chinese Medicine over millennia has been proven in science. There is research showing that urban green spaces reduce health inequalities between rich and poor. What this means is that a poorer person from a lower socioeconomic group is likely to have worse health and a shorter life then a wealthy person. If both of these people live near green spaces these differences are reduced dramatically. What happens is that simply having access to green natural space improves the health and life expectancy of disadvantaged groups. To add to this an Australian study has shown that children who play outside are far less likely to develop myopia then those indoors. Both groups can do the same amount of reading and TV, it’s just being outside improves their vision (or maybe being inside too much damages it).
Water features such as ponds and lakes increase the beneficial effects of outdoor spaces. You don’t have to exercise, just looking at beautiful scenery or greenery is good for you. Tolerance to cancer treatments are improved by a good view from the hospital window. Depression is reduced and work productivity also greatly enhanced. Exercise indoors such as a gym has been shown to not be as beneficial as exercise outdoors. It’s not about simply exercising; it is being outside and being able to see natural greenery and scenery that is so important.
So enough said, wrap up well, and get out there. The most benefit happens in the first 5 minutes, a short lunch break outside in a pleasant garden is enough to hugely improve health, happiness and productivity. Get outside often, that’s the trick.... little and often, the park, the river or even a balcony with a few window boxes. It’s so easy, and you will enjoy a healthier more relaxed, happier and longer life!