Science confirms what many already believed: taking walks in nature lowers your stress and depression rates.
You’ve probably heard it several times in your life: take a deep breath, go take a walk and calm down. But according to a new study, that’s not just small talk; walks, especially nature walks can do wonders for your mental health. Even people who suffered from a significant traumatic event reported improved mental health after a walk in nature.
“We hear people say they feel better after a walk or going outside but there haven’t been many studies of this large size to support the conclusion that these behaviors actually improve your mental health and well-being,” says senior author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
Indeed, many of us suspected this – it’s high time a large scale study actually took a look at this.
“Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster. Our findings suggest that something as simple as joining an outdoor walking group may not only improve someone’s daily positive emotions but may also contribute a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression.”
Researchers analyzed almost 2,000 people from the Walking for Health program in England, monitoring how their mental health evolves in regards to walking in nature.
“Given the increase in mental ill health and physical inactivity in the developed world, we are constantly exploring new, accessible ways to help people improve their long term quality of life and well-being,” Warber says.
“Group walks in local natural environments may make a potentially important contribution to public health and be beneficial in helping people cope with stress and experience improved emotions.”