Walking in nature lowers risk of depression, scientists find
A study found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to thoes who walked in an urban setting, showed decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination, repetitive thought focused on negative emotions.
“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them.”
“This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation, something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better,” said lead author Gregory Bratman, a graduate student in Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, the Stanford Psychophysiology Lab and the Center for Conservation Biology.
“These findings are important because they are consistent with, but do not yet prove, a causal link between increasing urbanization and increased rates of mental illness,” said co-author James Gross, a professor of psychology at Stanford.