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.