Nature walks are among the best ways to stay in shape. Find out why a new study found that strolling in natural settings also has essential mental health benefits.
I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately. In fact, I go for a couple of walks every day now.
It started when I was getting my COVID booster at the local recreation centre. On the way out, I noticed the entrance to the indoor walking track I’d been hearing about.
I decided to see what it looked like. Once I saw it, I decided to try it out. One thing led to another and after a few more visits to the indoor track, I found the outdoor trail that went around the centre.
Walking Around Tree-Lined Streets in My Neighbourhood
The next thing I knew, I was taking walks around the tree-lined streets in my quiet residential neighbourhood. My smartwatch took note of this new activity and started sending unsolicited messages of encouragement.
Although I’m not fond of taking advice from machines, it turns out my watch had a point. The journal Molecular Psychiatry published a study this week about going for nature walks.
The participants in the study received functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI scans before and after going for a one-hour walk. Half of them took a walk in a forested city park while the other half went to a busy shopping district.
Walks in Forested City Park versus Busy Shopping District
During both of the fMRI scans, the researchers asked the subjects to do a couple of tricky exercises. One involved looking at facial expressions and the other incorporated mental arithmetic problems.
These exercises provided a way of measuring stress levels. The study’s lead author, Professor Sonja Sudimac, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience in Berlin.
Professor Sudimac explained to Medical News Today, “The results of our study show that after only one-hour walks in nature, activity in brain regions involved in stress processing…