Here’s some natural health advice that you likely don’t often get, but should: go take a walk in the park. Of course you know that walking is good for your physical health. But now researchers say that walking in a green space could specifically improve your mental health. That means less depression and more clear thinking.
Skeptical about all of this? Consider an investigation into people’s perceived physical and mental health when walking in a space full of grass and trees and anything else that grows.
Researchers mailed a survey and collected the following data from adults in Adelaide, Australia: physical and mental health scores; perceived neighborhood greenness; walking for recreation and for transport; local social interaction; and socio-demographic variables.
After adjusting for those socio-demographic variables, the research team found that those who perceived their neighborhood as highly green had 1.37 and 1.60 times higher odds of better physical and mental health, respectively, compared with those who perceived the lowest greenness.
In fact, the researchers concluded, those who went for walks in a green neighborhood more strongly associated with improved mental health than with physical health. Recreational walking seemed to explain an obvious link between greenness and physical health, whereas the relationship between greenness and mental health was a little harder to pin down. In looking for an answer, the researchers chalk it up to the restorative effects of natural environments.
The next time you go for a walk, choose a route through your local park and take a break from pounding the pavement. The restorative effects of nature may start to have a beneficial effect on you, too. Your thoughts will clear, issues will resolve themselves, and your brain will benefit from all that extra oxygen.
You might even get lucky and discover that there is a local tai chi group performing exercises in your local park every morning or afternoon. Tai chi is a great way to support good mental and physical health. And, if you do these exercises outside in a green environment, you may get twice the mental health boost for your efforts.
Click here to learn more about tai chi exercises.