‘Digging deep’: how specific forms of green exercise contribute to positive outcomes for individuals, groups, and communities

Christie, Mark (2022) ‘Digging deep’: how specific forms of green exercise contribute to positive outcomes for individuals, groups, and communities. Doctoral thesis, University of Cumbria.

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Abstract

In recent years there has been considerable reporting of a range of physical and psycho-social benefits derived from ‘green exercise’, a term which describes a myriad of nature-based activities, including gardening, walking, climbing, and running in natural surroundings. Extant literature has largely focused upon exploring these benefits in respect of specific physical and psycho-social health and wellbeing outcomes, including positive impacts upon mood states, enhanced social connectedness, and improvements in recovery rates for patients in physical rehabilitation programmes. However, numerous gaps existed within the research beyond a focus on outcome measures: firstly, articulating the essential influences (mechanisms and processes) potentially driving these impacts. Secondly, insufficient qualitative investigations, particularly longitudinal ones. Third, a lack of innovation in researching green exercise, especially in respect of ethnographic studies. Fourth, and relatedly fifth, a need for more granular focused research upon specific population groups and settings, and utilising specific modes of green exercise - gardening, horticulture, and conservation activity - that had hitherto been under-investigated.

The work consists of findings from six published papers that not only confirm that green exercise promotes positive enhancements to physical and psycho-social health and wellbeing for participants, but also offers possible explanations as to why and how these are derived, drawing upon relevant theories and concepts. The investigations were based upon a pragmatic overarching research approach employing ethnography to research participant experiences within four distinct contexts: a purpose-built garden within a medium secure NHS unit; a conservation project in an urban park; a woodland project outside formal mental health service provision; and a corporate health setting. Combined, these small-scale ‘case studies’ of GE offer important insight into the value of GE for specific groups and contexts and enable the development of a suggested socio-ecological model that emphasises a ‘green transformative ripple effect’ can be achieved delivering benefits not only for individuals, but also at group and community level. The latter is further evidenced through local ‘social impact’, demonstrating potential for the adoption of green exercise initiatives by practitioners and policymakers involved in social prescribing and community development as part of a more comprehensive health improvement strategy within communities.

Item Type: Thesis/Dissertation (Doctoral)
Departments: Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies > Outdoor Studies
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of University of Cumbria for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2022 08:33
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 11:00
URI: https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/6560

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