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Blacktivate Lesson 006: Green Exercises for Black Women Pt. 2

Summer 2018

Hey Hey Ya! It’s your guuurrrllll, Chris Omni, the Health Hippie, back once again to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. This week, we are going to continue our conversation about the transformative power of being outdoors. I promise to shy away from the mushy stuff this week because you had plenty of it during lesson 005. So, if you are ready for Lesson 006, throw a fist in the air and say it with me…

“It’s time to… BLACKTIVATE!”

It’s kind of difficult to tell by the opening picture, but this picture was taken just before we started walking on the Shunga Trail in Topeka, Kansas. This walking event was no different than any other walk, but the remarkable aspect of this picture, that most people wouldn’t know, is that each of the eight women were going through eight totally separate life situations.

Some pains, worries, and other life situations are worn on the face while others are hidden in plain sight. But, by the time we completed the 30 minute walk, one thing was pretty obvious-the collective mood was elevated. (Even if just for the 30 minutes during the walk and a few minutes after, I count that as a success!!) Some of you might be asking, what happened? Others of you might be curious about what was so magical about those 1,800 seconds? The answer is simple. They were nurtured by nature.

Research Time

A study conducted by Hartig et al. [1] looked at the relationship between positive emotional and cognitive outcomes and walking in urban settings versus walking in nature. Which one do YOU think was more beneficial? {insert Jeopardy timer}. Based on the title of this article, I hope you answered “nature.” Walking is great; don’t get me wrong. I just wrote an 11,000 word thesis about a walking intervention targeting Black women. I looooooove walking. But, for added mental health benefits, green exercises for Black women is the key! (I’m biased!!)

The topic of mental health is near and dear to me because I have been diagnosed with anxiety and have suffered with depression. These labels are rarely talked about in the Black community for reasons that we don’t have time to address in this article, but I promise to dive deeper into this subject during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. But, as a quick teaser, did you know that African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites [2]? Psychological distress can mean major depression, anxiety, ADHD, and suicidal thoughts to name a few. I digress. Moving on…

While researching articles for this week’s post, I came across a cool concept called Nature Relatedness proposed by Researchers Martin and Brymer. Have you heard of it? It is exactly as it sounds-a connection to nature. Martin and Brymer researched anxiety levels in relation to nature, but they didn’t explore physical activity. Therefore, Lawton, Brymer, Clough, and Denovan expanded upon this work and investigated the role of physical activity in relation to nature and psychological wellbeing. What I found super interesting and telling about this research was the finding about relationships.

Just like interactions with human being, the type of relationship you have with that person dictates the experience(s) you share. Nature is no different. If a person is comfortable with nature and feels connected with nature then the psychological benefits are present [3]. But, the opposite is also true and positive effects become negated if being outdoors causes you to stress out. (All the bugs, heat, and other critters can be a distraction; I get it).

Please remember that I led this week’s article by publicly declaring my bias in favor of physical activity outdoors as a means to improve one’s mental health. But, green exercises for Black women is not the be all end all when it comes to improving mental health; it simply serves as another option to consider. Everyone is different. The most important aspect of any wellness journey is to keep trying on physical activity until you find what fits. (No pun intentend.)

Well Luvs, that is it for this week. Thank you for spending a little time with me and please tune in next Thursday as I continue my mission to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women.

High Fives, Hugs, and Hope!

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

PS

Knowledge is key; you can’t do better until you know better!

References

  1. Hartig, T., Evans, G. W., Jamner, I. D., Davis, D. S., and Garling, T. (2003), Tracking restoration in natural and urban field settings. J. Environ. Psychol. 23, 109-123. Doi: 10.1016/S0272-4944(02)00109-3
  2. Mental Health Data/Statistics (2016). US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Retrieved from https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/content.aspx?ID=6471
  3. Lawton, E., Brymer, e., Clough, P., and Denovan, A. (2017). The Relationship between Physical Activity Environment, Nature Relatedness, Anxiety, and the Psychological Well-being Benefits of Regular Exercisers. Front. Psychol. 8:1058. Doi: 10.3389/psyg.2017.01058.