(dailyRx News) Nature walks can help memory and cognition by clearing the mind. Walking in general can help depressive symptoms regardless of setting.
Researchers find that walking can affect both mind and mood. Results suggest walking therapy for added benefit to medical treatments for depression.
Marc Berman PhD, researcher at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care’s Research Institute in Toronto, led a study on the effects of nature walks on people with clinical depression. Researchers weren’t sure if the nature walks would help or hurt the moods of depressive patients since they would be alone with their thoughts for an hour.
Dr. Berman is working with Attention Restoration Theory (ART), which is a cognitive science field that suggests that being in nature or even looking at nature scenes help with memory and concentration. Nature relaxes without dulling the senses, leaving memory and attention free to be fully active. Nature is refreshing to a person’s cognitive abilities.
Twenty people from the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor area with clinical depression were asked to take a serene nature walk one week and take a bustling urban walk the other week. They were all tested for mood and memory and thinking before the walk, as well as asked to think about some painful and unresolved situation.
After the walk they were tested for attention span, short-term and working memory and mood.
Results showed a 16 percent rise in attention and working memory after the nature walk vs. the urban walk. Mood elevated equally after both the nature and urban walks.
Dr. Berman states: “Our study showed that participants with clinical depression demonstrated improved memory performance after a walk in nature, compared to a walk in a busy urban environment. Walking in nature may act to supplement or enhance existing treatments for clinical depression, but more research is needed to understand just how effective nature walks can be to help improve psychological functioning.”
This study was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, May 2012. The study was funded in part by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and by a private grant from the TKF Foundation. No conflicts of interest were found.