Kaid Benfield Archive


Stress is not a walk in the park

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 19, 2009 at 1:26PM

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my favorite city park, London's Russell Square (by: Daniel Lobo, creative commons license) 

So said Rachel in this space last summer, and I've been pushing the city parks thing here for over a year now.  Now we have some new research to back it up.

In particular, Meghna Marjadi reports in the McGill Tribune, a student paper associated with McGill University in Montreal, on a new study finding that a test group of students walking through an urban arboretum scored better on memory and mood indicia than a control group walking on city streets.  The research was conducted at the University of Michigan:

"The study investigated how human interactions with nature and cities affect memory performance by sending participants on 50-minute walks in each environment. Half of the study participants walked in downtown Ann Arbor, the other in the Ann Arbor arboretum. Prior to the walk, participants were assessed for mood, memory, and attention. They were also given GPS watches to ensure that they remained on route. When they returned, researchers gave participants the same memory tests. A week later, those who walked in the arboretum repeated the same procedure, but instead walked in the city, and those who previously walked in the city walked in the park.

"'We found that when the people walked in the park ... they showed significant improvements in their memory and attention,' says Marc Berman, a University of Michigan graduate student who worked on the study.

"According to Berman, 'The combination of nature's absence and constant attention to cars and other hazards causes stress.'

"'The idea is that when you're in nature you can let your mind wander'" says Berman. 'There are lots of interesting things to look at, and you can rest some portions of attention. While, in an urban environment, typically you can't rest attention so much . . . You need to be really vigilant that you don't get hit by a car or walk into people.'"

Assuming you can't go for a walk right now, read the full article here.