For some years now research from a variety of scientific fields has found that physical activity in the presence of nature and feelings of being connected to nature are linked to enhanced psychological health and wellbeing benefits. However, there has sometimes been confusion about whether the impacts measured are because of increased physical activity or the effects of the natural world. A new study that we recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology aimed to investigate the long term psychological health and wellbeing impact of the physical activity environment for those already undertaking the UK physical activity guidelines weekly amount of physical activity. The topic is important for the design of health and wellbeing environments and interventions involving physical activity. We measured trait and state anxiety, physical activity levels, wellebing and also peoples connection to nature.
What we found was that psychological wellbeing scores were high and anxiety scores were low for all participants. Which is what you would expect given that all particpipantss were physically active. The exercise environment didi not play any part in either trait anxiety or wellbeing. However, what was really interesting was that there did seem to be a link between feeling part of nature and wellbeing There was alos a relationship beyween feling connected to nature and overall trait anxiety, and trait somatic anxiety. IN summary this study provides further evidence that feeling connected to nature is linked to enhanced psychological health and wellbeing. While regular exercisers might benefit from exercise alone, individual differences with regards to the level of connection with the natural world, seem to impact on the benefits observed.