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By Karen Alexander, Oncology Wellness Specialist

07/27/2018

Health Benefits of Ecotherapy

According to the American Council on Exercise, physical activity is the movement that is carried out by the skeletal muscles that requires energy. In other words, any movement that you do is physical activity. Exercise, however, is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement that improves or maintains physical fitness. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity, and it may improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests that adults should get 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week if tolerated. However, an increasing amount of evidence demonstrates that the setting where you exercise matters as well as length of time. 

Time outdoors and exposure to nature provide health benefits, particularly for mental health (improve mood, anxiety, stress, and depression) and an improved sense of well-being. Ecotherapy, also known as green therapy, nature therapy, and earth-centered therapy, includes treatment programs aimed to improve your mental and physical wellbeing by doing activities in nature.

According to a Norwegian report published in 2010, exercise significantly reduces blood pressure, increases self-esteem, and has a positive effect on mood. Exposure to pleasant rural and urban scenes when exercising produces a more significant positive impact on self-esteem than exercise alone. On the other hand, exposure to unpleasant urban scenes shows increased fatigue after exercise and blood pressure. Researchers also found that the effects of green exercise in improving self-esteem and total mood disturbance were not affected by the type, intensity or duration of the green activity. In other words, no matter what or how much you do, you will obtain health benefits when practicing Ecotherapy.

If you are an outdoor activity lover, you might be interested in learning about your options here in Northeast Florida:

Biking Trails:

Hiking Trails:

Kayaking:

The recipe of the week is a healthy snack that you can bring with you when doing outdoor activities. This was one of our first contributions with Edible Magazine:

Pear Granola Bars

Ingredients
½ cup dates
½ cup creamy almond butter
1 cup almond flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup shredded coconut
¼ cup cranberries or golden raisins
¼ cup finely chopped almonds
¼ cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup dried pears, chopped

Directions
Soak the dates in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain the water and process the dates in a food processor until smooth. Add about 2 tablespoons of water to help make the dates creamier. Add almond flour and mix until a paste forms. Then add rolled oats, coconut, cranberries or raisins, finely chopped almonds and chocolate chips. Pulse until well mixed. Cover a baking dish with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Transfer the mixture into the dish and press until it is uniformly flattened. (The mixture can also be formed into small balls.) Place the baking dish in the refrigerator or freezer for about one hour. Remove from the refrigerator and chop into little squares. Decorate with the dehydrated pears. Store in containers or sealed plastic bags in the freezer to keep them firm and fresh.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Karen Alexander, BSND, MSCN

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