Exercise-, nature- and socially interactive-based initiatives improve mood and self-esteem in the clinical population

Perspect Public Health. 2012 Mar;132(2):89-96. doi: 10.1177/1757913910393862.


Aims: This study evaluated two existing group-based health promotion initiatives (a social club and a swimming group) and compared these to a new green exercise programme (weekly countryside and urban park walks).

Methods: Participants represented a clinical population (N = 53) and were all experiencing a range of mental health problems. They only attended one of the three programmes and sessions were held once a week for six weeks in all initiatives. Composite questionnaires incorporating two standardized measures to analyse changes in self-esteem and mood were completed before and after all sessions.

Results: A significant main effect for self-esteem and mood pre and post activity (p < 0.001) was reported after participating in a single session. The change in self-esteem was significantly greater in the green exercise group compared with the social activities club (p < 0.001). Dose responses showed that both self-esteem and mood levels improved over the six-week period and improvements were related to attendance in the green exercise group.

Conclusions: Green exercise as a health-promoting initiative for people experiencing mental ill health is equally as effective as existing programmes. Combining exercise, nature and social components in future initiatives may play a key role in managing and supporting recovery from mental ill health, suggesting a potential 'green' approach to mental healthcare and promotion.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept*
  • Swimming / psychology
  • Walking / psychology
  • Young Adult