Study Links Group Nature Walks to Improved Mental Health

First Posted: Sep 24, 2014 07:25 AM EDT

A latest study ties group nature walks to lower depression and enhanced well-being.  

It is important to note that we should not let stress pull us off course as it leads to major events both negative and positive. People either eat or exercise to beat the stress. In the latest study, researchers at the University of Michigan proposed another interesting way to unwind oneself - by taking part in group nature walks.

The study conducted in collaboration with De Montfort partners reveals that group nature walks lead to lower depression, lower stress and boosts mental health and well-being. They based their finding on the study conducted on 1,991 participants who were a part of the Walking for Health program in England that conducts 3,000 weekly walks and have more than 70,000 regular walkers a year.

"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 behaviors actually improve your mental health and well-being," said senior author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Those who have recently experienced a stressful event like marital separation, unemployment, loss of a loved one or serious illness, noticed a boost in their mood after undertaking outdoor group walks.

Considering the rise in mental ill health as well as physical inactivity in this developed world, health experts are exploring ways to assist people to boost their long term quality of life and well-being. Group walks in local natural environment makes a significant contribution to public health by helping them cope with stress and boost mood.

Walking is the best low risk and inexpensive accessible form of exercise. And when this is clubbed with nature and group setting, it offers potential health benefits.

"Our 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," said Warber.

The study was documented in Ecopsychology.

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