7 Fitness Psychology Benefits Of Getting Out of The City

There’s a reason why they put nature scenes on the walls of windowless offices! Nature brings us calm, lifts our mood and reduces stress. Everyone knows this (although they rarely act on it), but could nature also be the catalyst to health and fitness change?Strengthening you with a near spiritual experience, sending you home more productive, more able to control urges, finally allowing you make the changes that have been eluding you?

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1.       Green Fitness is stress reliever

as city dwellers we miss out on this affect 95% of the time so you really notice it when it happen. Nature experiences have measurably improved tranquility, conflict, burnout, boredom and the pressure of ‘roles’ in 100’s of studies. It doesn’t need to be a week hiking in the Lake district, even exercising in a city park is shown to reduce stress, even a view from a hospital window has been shown to increase post-surgery healing. An innovative study run by the University of Westminster for the BBC2 programme Trust Me I Am A Doctor showed participants taking part in Green Gym, Yoga and Mindfulness sessions dropping 20-35% more stress hormone cortisol than the control group. That’s enough to make a huge dent in your day to day well-being, from that controlled place what could you achieve?

 

2.       Spiritual experiences….

Getting away from man-made ‘built structures’ psychologically represents getting away from the organised roles and stories we build around ourselves and connecting to the ‘fundamental structures’ of the natural world, which represent our true psychological nature. This is a spiritual experience, or ‘peak experience’ Maslow’s highest order of human need, where you feel touched by something greater. How often does that happen on the Bakerloo Line? The inspirational effect of having a moment like that can last, transforming your next month and giving your motivation wings.

3.       Mindfulness

Not all mindfulness is found crossed legged in a quiet room. ‘Nature contact’ has been argued to increase fascination, intrinsic interest, and enjoyment. Mostly due to the ‘new-ness’ of the environment your awareness rises and you forget the swarm of thoughts that chase you in the city. If you find meditation icky or hard then a walk in nature provides similar benefits. I like to combine the two; go for a walk in the park and sit down on a bench for 10 mins with my eyes closed. Makes getting some head space feel 10x easier and stronger.

4.       Group nature experiences and new social norms….

Building shared history around healthy natural activities gives your friendships new depth and creates a new positive norm in your group. City life is fast paced and stressful we’re all “So busy..”, breaking that norm and seeing people in less busy places taking time over the smaller things can be restorative. Like talking to your neighbors without trying to end the conversation; making eye contact or god forbid even a joke with the cashier in the shop... We forget ourselves in the maddening rush of London, going ever faster, tightening our knots until there’s no slack left; “I will get on the early train, but I will also send that email before I leave. I will do a full 60 min workout before work, even if I have to get out of bed after 5.5 hours sleep….” You know those thought patterns. Have you ever taken a self-serve till in Tescos so you didn’t have to spend extra time dealing with a cashier? That’s where we’re at in 2018. Yet there is a quiet voice in all of us that rationalises with your incessant countdown and argues gently against the hamster wheel. Mixing with friends who are listening to theirs is a great way to give yours some air time. Norms are subtly powerful influences on your life, lay them carefully.

5.       Break down barriers to come back stronger

Ego transcendence is when you release the barriers, fixations and associations that ‘help’ build your identity. Spending a day in nature, a radically different environment to normal that also meets some basic human needs can help disintegrate these negative connections, allowing an expansion of your sense of self. Hopefully to incorporate more flexibility, resilience and strength to overcome difficulties. If you are having trouble over powering your urges to eat and live unhealthily a dose of nature may be more effective than any self-motivating speech you can drum up.

6.       Mind-Body connection

soul food comes in many forms, the type you get from walking in the country is physical, you feel it in your muscles, lungs and heart. As much as you wrap it up in Calvins and All Saints jeans your body is made for nature and it knows when you take it there. A lung or two full of fresh air striding up a hill has your body singing and your mind grounded, with the added benefit of being low intensity fat burning exercise. Can you add a long walk, with friends, round one of London’s big parks to your training week? Hampstead Heath, Regents Park, Richmond Park, Bushy Park are all begging to bring you back to nature.

7.       Digital detox

The blessing of poor phone reception and a day of joint outdoor activities should pull you away from your phone for a period. That’s good for you in so many ways. Reconnect, take action and stop reading endless “7 best of this/that” articles…

 

If this has hit a button for you please take action today; walk through a park on the way home, tidy your garden, go for a run. Go feed your true nature some nature.

James Hardy