Human Health and Plants Research: Walking is Good, Walking in Nature Even Better

A recent European study (Gidlow, CJ (2016) J. Environ. Psychol. 45, 22-29) suggests that taking a 30-minute walk through a natural landscape with or without views of water is more restorative than a walk in a city residential area with little or no plant life. Thirty-eight healthy adults, 61% male and average age 41, went on three walks: “urban”, “green,” and “green with a water feature.” Both total mood disturbance and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were reduced regardless of the walk environment indicating that walking is a beneficial physical activity. In contrast, measures of cognitive task performance and psychological restoration were improved following the “green” and “green with a water feature” walk, but reduced by the “urban” walk. The study results suggest that the therapeutic benefits of walking are enhanced in natural environments compared to nature-deficient urban environments.

Charlie Guy, Professor, UF Department of Environmental Horticulture

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