The Importance of an Inspiring Environment and Exercise

Look, let’s be honest. Working out is difficult. Even for those of us that love exercise, it can be a chore to ‘rise and grind’ enough days of the week to create the changes we are seeking in our physicality.

Even if you do find activities you enjoy, lack of diversity can often lead you to getting burned out, making what was once fun and worth seeking now miserable and oft-avoided. The fact is, we were meant to be in nature, in beauty – within the ether of the world not withdrawn from it. It’s primal, it’s natural. It’s human.

Environment shapes everything. In fact anywhere from 40-80% of a human’s genetic makeup is malleable, meaning environmental factors can have a direct effect on and change the genetic makeup of an individual.This is the classic argument of Nature v Nurture, Heredity v Environment. Both are important but we only can only affect one, so let’s focus on what we can control. Deal?

I’m saying that just as realistically as you can change their epigenetic code based on what you eat, you can change your psychological association with exercise based on where you exercise.

When I work out in an environment that inspires me, I am more likely to work harder and longer and will most definitely feel better during and after. Instead of saying, “Fuck my life, I have to do 3 more burpees or 4 more vinyasas, or run another 2 miles,” I say, “Look at how beautiful that tree by the lake is in the sunlight,” and finish my workout with a smile on my face rather than a furrow in my brow and gritting my teeth.

In the end, it’s all about being happy. They say life is a journey, well so is your workout regime. Don’t just enjoy the results, enjoy every step of the way and you won’t just create a routine or a habit, you will create a lifestyle.

But enough about my opinion, let’s get you some facts in the form of straight science and documented evidence so you don’t have to take my word for it.

In 2005, a case study titled, “The Mental and Physical Health Outcomes of Green Exercise” was undertaken within the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex, in Colchester, UK.

The full study can be found here

Essentially 5 subject groups of around 20 people were subjected to exercise on a treadmill while exposed to different pictorial displays of environments. These displays were of pleasant urban environments, unpleasant urban, pleasant rural, unpleasant rural and a control which consisted of no display (running and staring at a wall as we often do at a gym). They measured blood pressure and psychological factors such as self esteem and mood. The results for blood pressure are as shown below.

workout study

 

The researchers “found that pleasant rural scenes have the greatest effect in reducing blood pressure – both in terms of the average reduction in mean arterial blood pressure in all subjects in this class.”

Tables on mood and self esteem can be found in the article, but the excerpts from the observations reveal: “Rural pleasant scenes also had a positive effect on self-esteem, which like pleasant urban scenes produced a greater effect than exercise alone. This shows the synergistic effect of exposure to both rural and pleasant urban environments, when combined with exercise.”

The scientists conclude, “Our findings suggest that exercise in pleasant environments may have a greater effect than exercise alone on blood pressure, an important measure of cardiovascular health, and on measures that are relevant to mental health. We conclude that green exercise has important implications for public and environmental health. A fitter and emotionally more content population would clearly cost the economy less as well as reducing individual human suffering.” If you read nothing else, I implore you to at least read the conclusions of this wonderful study.
Exercise in the places you find pleasant. They don’t have to be green, but it should be a place that inspires you. If you’re going somewhere you already enjoy being, you’re going to want to go there, and you might as well get some work done while you’re there. Journey to the destination, and then make the destination its own journey. Good luck and safe travels my friends.