Nature Walks and Mental Health, Stress

Nature Walks and Mental Health, Stress

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Title: Examining Group Walks in Nature and Multiple Aspects of Well-Being: A Large-Scale Study

Author: Marselle et al

Journal: Ecopsychology

Objective: To identify the mental, emotional, and social well-being benefits from participating in group walks in nature.

Background

The health benefits of walking, like many types of exercise are well documented. Walking regularly has been linked a reduced risk of:

  • Heart attack by 35%
  • Stroke by 34%
  • Overall death by 22%
  • Dementia
  • And weight loss
  • Among others

What is less well studied are the benefits of walking on your psychological health; namely mental, emotional and social well-being.

Another part of this study is the fact that the authors were curious about nature walks specifically. There is a small body of evidence that nature walks may actually be more healthy than say, walking on a track.

Methods

This study included about 1516 folks who participated in the Walking for Health study in England.

Roughly half were individuals who did group walks in nature and the other half did not walk in a group.

They assessed the psychological measures via an online questionnaire.

Results

Group walks in nature were associated with significantly lower rates of

  • depression
  • perceived stress
  • negative affect

They also enhanced positive affect and mental well-being.

Whether you walked by yourself or with a group did not appear to make a difference.

Conclusions

The obvious conclusion here is that nature walks are good for your mental health.

This appears to be true for reinforcing positive thoughts and mood as well as lowering depression scores, perceived stress and negative affect.

Nature walks, with or without others, should be part of the therapeutic toolset when treating mental health in addition to the many physical health benefits.

Original Article

Marselle, M., Irvine, K., & Warber, S. (2013). Walking for Well-Being: Are Group Walks in Certain Types of Natural Environments Better for Well-Being than Group Walks in Urban Environments? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(11), 5603-5628. doi:10.3390/ijerph10115603

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