Exercise: Happy people and a healthy planet
The URL has been copied
The URL has been copied
How can our exercise habits help protect the environment and how does nature affect our physical activity?

While there are numerous ways the world of sport can help address environmental challenges, including linking sport to environmental education, greening major sport events, and using the popularity of athletes to advocate for policy changes, what has not been discussed enough is the relationship between physical activity, healthy bodies and a healthy planet.

Exercising to save the planet

Perhaps the most obvious link is how we move around. Walking or biking instead of driving or even taking public transport decreases greenhouse gas emissions and makes us healthier and happier.

Innovative technology is also finding ways of transforming human energy. For example, pedal-powered generators convert the energy spent while pedalling a bike into electricity that can be used to power small gadgets. On average, one hour of pedalling produces about 100 watt-hours, enough energy to power a 15-watt compact fluorescent light bulb for more than six hours or a laptop for two.

At the micro level, Researchers at MIT have developed a new method for harnessing the energy generated by very small bending motions. This technology would allow a range of natural human activities, including walking, to power cell phones, audio players or other small devices.

Exercising and playing sport outdoors has also been linked to a greater appreciation of nature in both participants and spectators. This is particularly important given the general decline in connectedness to nature, especially in children and adolescents, a phenomenon known as the ‘nature deficit disorder’.

Healthy planet, happy humans

Numerous studies show that participating in physical activity in greenspaces – ‘green exercise’- is positively related to mental, physical and emotional health, with the first five minutes having the biggest impact on mood and self-esteem.

Moreover, the quality of the green space matters. For example, greater biodiversity (i.e. range of plants and animals present in the environment) enhances the psychological health benefits. Similarly, another study found that while exercising in pleasant outdoor environments was more beneficial than exercise alone, the psychological benefits of exercise and being outdoors were reduced in unpleasant environments.

An unpleasant environment not only compromises the emotional benefits of physical activity, but air pollution also negatively impacts the physical health of people who exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic exercising increases the health problems related to air pollution, especially for those who have a heart or lung condition, asthma, or diabetes. For example, in a community with poor air quality the most athletic children were three times more likely to suffer from asthma than their more sedentary peers.

The bottom line is that getting off the couch or out of the gym is important for both the environment and our own health and happiness. All of us have a personal stake in promoting a healthy planet, and we can start by asking our local governments to invest in green spaces and make our cities pedestrian and bike friendly.




Related Articles

sportanddev steering board webinar

sportanddev Steering Board Appoints Executive Director

The URL has been copied
hand placing a golf ball

The Elite Capture of Sport for Development

Louis Moustakas
The URL has been copied
4 April 2024; John Barnes, right, and FAI FSR manager Des Tomlinson

England Ex-Footballer John Barnes Reveals the Uncomfortable Truth about Racism

The URL has been copied
A picture of PSD's WTTD celebrations in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

Celebrating World Table Tennis Day: Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

The URL has been copied