Large UK/USA study provides evidence that Group Nature Walks enhance mental wellbeing


09-10-2014

These are common suggestions to remedy the effects of stress: You just need a breath of fresh air. Walk it off. Get out and see people. It turns out that all those things combined may in fact make you feel better - a lot better - a new large scale study suggests[1].

 

According to the study conducted by the University of Michigan in the US, with partners from De Montfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the UK, Group Nature Walks are linked with:

  • significantly lower depression
  • less perceived stress
  • enhanced mental health
  • wellbeing.

People who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation or unemployment especially seemed to see a mood boost after outdoor group walks.

"We hear people say they feel better after a walk or going outside but there haven't been many studies of this large size to support the conclusion that these behaviours actually improve your mental health and wellbeing," says senior author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

"Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilised stress buster.”

Their findings suggest that something as simple as joining an outdoor walking group may not only improve someone's daily positive emotions but may also contribute a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression.

Researchers evaluated 1,991 participants from the Walking for Health programme in England, which helps facilitate nearly 3,000 weekly walks and draws more than 70,000 regular walkers a year.

"Given the increase in mental ill health and physical inactivity in the developed world, we are constantly exploring new, accessible ways to help people improve their long-term quality of life and well-being," Warber says.

"Group walks in local natural environments may make a potentially important contribution to public health and be beneficial in helping people cope with stress and experience improved emotions."

Activ8rlives says: This evidence is welcome news to us in support of the many thousands of individuals who regularly go out for a daily walk no matter what the weather. It seems that the stress busting and mental health benefits are particularly heightened when walking in nature and near a body of water. What so many of us do instinctively, turns out to be the best thing for us to cope with the stresses and strains of our lives, helping us cope with heightened stress but also being good for our wellbeing, not to mention our lungs, hearts, circulation and muscles.

This lunchtime, drag along your colleagues for a group walk or a family walk after dinner in the evening. Join up with a group of neighbours to walk together, enjoying each other’s company and being safer in a group. Make it a habit for the rest of your life – you’ll not be disappointed. The restorative and health benefits will be well worth the investment in your time. Find out more about how you can track your activity levels and join Activ8rlives on a “virtual walk” through Africa by joining one of our online communities with a FREE Activ8rlives account.

[1] Marselle, Melissa R., Irvine, Katherine N., and Warber, Sara L. Examining Group Walks in Nature and Multiple Aspects of Well-Being: A Large-Scale StudyEcopsychology, September 2014 

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