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Green exercise and its benefits

'Green exercise' is active or passive engagement with greenspace and nature, which improves physical, mental and social health and well-being.

Green exercise includes:

  • walking and relaxation
  • outdoor learning and play
  • recreation and sport
  • practical conservation
  • gardening
  • rehabilitation and recovery
  • active travel

Spending time in the outdoors in these and other similar ways can bring about the varied health and well-being benefits below. This is why Scotland’s outdoors is the foundation of Our Natural Health Service.

Contribution to effective recovery

The natural environment can have important ‘restorative’ qualities and thus promote recovery from mental and physical stresses. Experience of the natural environment, and being involved in its care, can motivate sustained behaviour change.

Nature as preventive medicine

Physical activity outdoors and contact with nature can help to protect against future stresses and aid mental concentration. Just being outdoors during the day can bring mental and physical health benefits and help to guard against illness.

Wider social health benefits

Public use of the natural environment is linked to wider social health and well-being benefits. As more people connect with local green places and get involved in their care, communities become stronger, more inclusive and more sustainable.

Sustained benefits for young people

It’s important to stimulate positive interest in the natural world and encourage outdoor activity at a young age. Doing so can promote a healthier lifestyle for a lifetime.

Evidence base for health benefits

A substantial evidence base links the use of the natural environment with health and well-being outcomes. Health benefits from the outdoors and nature provides more detail on the benefits of green exercise, plus key sources of evidence.