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Why you should keep calm and go for a walk in the park

A new study reveals that outdoor nature-based activities are great for your mental health

Nature can be great for your mind
Nature can be great for your mind (Unsplash)

If you find yourself waking up every morning feeling very blue, try this--head out to the nearest park for a brisk walk. Not in a mood for that walk? Try a spot of gardening. Or maybe join a bunch of earnest citizens who plan to clean up a lake or plant saplings. Basically, anything works – plogging, forest bathing, hiking, walking your dog, riding a horse or bike – as long as you're out there in the open, surrounded by trees or mountains or perhaps –  if you're lucky –  a topaz-hued ocean. 

Your mind and body will thank you for it. According to a new study led by the University of York, participating in outdoor, nature-based activities led to improved mood, less anxiety, and positive emotions. The study also suggested that 20-90 minutes of these nature based interventions, over the course of 8-12 weeks have the most positive impact on mood and anxiety. 

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 Dr Peter Coventry from the Department of Health Sciences, the lead author of the study said. “We've known for some time that being in nature is good for health and wellbeing, but our study reinforces the growing evidence that doing things in nature is associated with large gains in mental health,” he said, adding that while doing these activities alone was beneficial, doing it in groups was even better. 

The study pointed out that mental health disorders are the third leading cause of years lived with disability, with a global prevalence of greater than 10%, a situatution worsened by the pandemic. “At least 3.1 million people who have not previously had mental health problems will need support for depression, anxiety, or both,” stated the study. 

It also added that traditional health service models and interventions are unlikely to meet this demand and whole system approaches that strengthen community resilience and capacity to improve population health are therefore needed. Nature-based interventions could help improve community mental health and well-being, pointed out the study. It also added that “there is a need for substantial and sustained investment in community and place-based solutions such as nature-based interventions which are likely to play important role in addressing a post-pandemic surge in demand for mental health support.”

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