This is what an hour of walking in nature does to your brain

An hour of walking in the woods is enough to reduce stress.

Schon/Getty Images An hour of walking in the woods is enough to reduce stress.

Schon/Getty Images

An hour of walking in the woods is enough to reduce stress.

MENTAL HEALTH – Reading in a park, bucolic walk, ecotherapy… nature is associated with a whole series of physical and mental health benefits. published in the magazine Molecular Psychiatry September 5, a study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, “proves the causal (positive) link between nature and the health of the brain », according to Simone Kühn, co-author of the study. just one hour from Hike in nature is enough to reduces stress.

To test this correlation, the scientists studied the amygdala, a small structure in the center of the brain involved in stress processing and emotional learning, in 63 adult volunteers. They performed a memory exercise before taking an MRI while answering questions, some of which were specifically designed to create social stress.

Better care after the trip

Not knowing the purpose of theto study, then they were randomly assigned for a one-hour walk. Some of them in an urban environment of Berlin, others in a natural environment: the Grunewald forest, located on the outskirts of the German capital. All without using your mobile phone while following a predefined route. Then, they again filled out a questionnaire and underwent an MRI, with an additional stress-induction task.

Some participants walked through the streets of Berlin, others through the Grunewald forest.

Molecular Psychiatry / Nature Some participants walked through the streets of Berlin, others through the Grunewald forest.

Molecular Psychiatry / Nature

Some participants walked through the streets of Berlin, others through the Grunewald forest.

Then, MRIs showed reduced amygdala activity in the subjects who walked through the woods. The latter indicated that they recovered their attention and enjoyed the walk more than those who walked through the town. “The results confirm the previously hypothesized positive relationship between nature and brain health”says Simone Kuhn.

While amygdala activity did not decrease in urban walkers, it also did not increase, despite spending an hour in a busy urban environment. According to an article in science alert, this does not necessarily mean that cities do not harm our mental health. The stressful effect may be less powerful than other studies suggest. It may also depend on some factors that were not present in this street of Sedan. “These results strongly support the salutogenic effects (promoting wellness, editor’s note) from nature, as opposed to urban exposure that causes additional stress”the researchers write.

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