Green exercise research often reports psychological health outcomes without rigorously controlling exercise. This study examines effects of visual exercise environments on directed attention, perceived exertion and time to exhaustion, whilst measuring and controlling the exercise component. Participants completed three experimental conditions in a randomized counterbalanced order. Conditions varied by video content viewed (nature; built; control) during two consistently-ordered exercise bouts (Exercise 1: 60% VO2peakInt for 15-mins; Exercise 2: 85% VO2peakInt to voluntary exhaustion). In each condition, participants completed modified Backwards Digit Span tests (a measure of directed attention) pre-and post-Exercise 1. Energy expenditure, respiratory exchange ratio and perceived exertion were measured during both exercise bouts. Time to exhaustion in Exercise 2 was also recorded. There was a significant time by condition interaction for Backwards Digit Span scores (F2,22 = 6.267, p = 0.007). Scores significantly improved in the nature condition (p < 0.001) but did not in the built or control conditions. There were no significant differences between conditions for either perceived exertion or physiological measures during either Exercise 1 or Exercise 2, or for time to exhaustion in Exercise 2. This was the first study to demonstrate effects of controlled exercise conducted in different visual environments on post-exercise directed attention. Via psychological mechanisms alone, visual nature facilitates attention restoration during moderate-intensity exercise.
Rogerson, M., & Barton, J. (2015). Effects of the visual exercise environments on cognitive directed attention, energy expenditure and perceived exertion. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(7), 7321–7336. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120707321