Feeling Stressed Out? Try A 60 Minute Walk In Nature

When we have the opportunity to go out and take a walk in nature, we don’t often give it much thought. We simply look at the world around us and enjoy what we can, but there is more going on behind the scenes than most of us realize.

According to a press release from the Max Planck Society, it seems as if a region of the brain known as the amygdala is not quite as activated in those who live in rural areas. When you consider the fact that the amygdala is associated with processing stress, you begin to see the benefits of being out in nature.

Photo: Unsplash/IB Wira Dyatmika

Although no formal studies have taken place to look into how nature affects stress in humans, most people who live in either type of environment will tell you that it doesn’t hurt to get out there and slow down sometimes.

Perhaps one of the biggest questions is whether being out in nature affects the brain and our stress levels or if individuals who had lower amounts of stress tended to gravitate toward those areas. That is what Sonja Sudimac set out to determine. She is the lead author of a new study and a pre-doctoral fellow in the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience (LMGEN).

Photo: Unsplash/Chewy

LMGEN researchers decided to look into the question more closely. To do so, they examined various regions of the brain associated with processing stress. 63 healthy volunteers were included in the study, which had been walking for 60 minutes in Berlin’s Grunewald Forest. That same group would also spend an hour along a busy city street.

The group used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the brain patterns of those 63 volunteers both before and after each one-hour session. They then noticed some interesting things happening in the amygdala region of the brain, which became part of the study.

It seems as if the amygdala region of the brain slowed down after they took a walk in nature. In other words, there may be some benefits to getting out in areas of nature and unplugging for a while.

Photo: Unsplash/Fas Khan

According to a press release, Simone Kühn, head of the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience, described it in this way: “The results support the previously assumed positive relationship between nature and brain health, but this is the first study to prove the causal link. Interestingly, the brain activity after the urban walk in these regions remained stable and did not show increases, which argues against a commonly held view that urban exposure causes additional stress.”

Not only is this study important for those of us who could use a walk in nature, but it also shows the importance of making green areas accessible within cities to help with the overall mental health of those who live in those areas.

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