Exercise in the Park or Gym? The Physiological and Mental Responses of Obese People Walking in Different Settings at Different Speeds: A Parallel Group Randomized Trial

Front Psychol. 2021 Oct 22;12:728826. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.728826. eCollection 2021.


Evidence shows that physical activity has multiple health benefits for the body and mind of oneself, but little is known about the impacts of the setting and the intensity on exercise experience, especially for obese people. This study investigated the physiological and psychological effects of four walking conditions with different settings (park vs. gym) and intensity (slow vs. fast) on young obese adults. Subjects were 18-21 years old Chinese university students (N = 77), who were diagnosed as obese. They were randomly assigned to participate in one of the four activities in the field: slow walk in the park (2.8 km/h), fast walk in the park (5.5 km/h), slow walk in the gym, and fast walk in the gym. Physiological indices, including blood pressure and heart rate, were measured before and after the walk. Psychological responses were measured by the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, the mood states scale, and the semantic differential scale. This study of obese people aged 18-21 years confirmed the previous findings that exercising in natural environments better relieved stress and restored attentional level than indoor activities. The results suggested that the mood states of the participants and their environmental perceptions may be influenced by the walking conditions with different setting and speed. The findings can be used in planning and designing urban green spaces for promoting physical activity and making exercise plans for obese people.

Keywords: green exercise; health benefits; obesity; physical activity; walking speed.