People suffering from depression may find that a walk in the park or even just around the neighborhood has unexpected psychological benefits. According to a new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, walking may improve your mood as well as your mental health.
Researchers recruited 12 females and 8 males from the University of Michigan who were all diagnosed with clinical depression. They were then asked to spend an hour walking in either a quiet nature setting or a noisy urban street. Prior to the walk, each individual was asked to think of a painful personal experience.
Strapped with GPS trackers, they set off to follow their respective routes. After the walk, the participants were given a set of tests to measure their mental capacity, working memory, and mood. After a week, the participants were once again made to take a one-hour walk, but using a different route from before.
After analyzing the results, researchers found a 16-percent improvement in working memory in those who took the nature walk. This wasn’t the first time that a study found a link between better mental health and exposure to nature. Marc Berman, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, had previously written research that was published in the journal Psychological Science back in 2008. At that time, he found that people who walked in a peaceful nature setting for an hour improved their working memory by 20 percent compared to those who walked in a noisy urban environment.
Taking his research further in this new study, Berman found that walking also contributes to the psychological well-being of depressed patients. This time around, however, when it comes to mood change, there appeared to be no significant difference between walking in a nature setting and walking in a noisy neighborhood. Both walks showed evidence of improved mood in the subjects.
The results were unexpected as researchers originally believed that taking a solitary walk would only make patients feel worse. Now, though, it seems like a good idea for those who want to get out of a rut. Try it, and you may just find yourself benefiting from some time alone.
(Photo by lusi via sxc.hu)