The Benefits of Walking in Urban Green Spaces

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If you are taking walks to de-stress, where you do it matters.  A new study by researchers from the Science Museum of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech found that walking in a quiet urban setting with shade and greenery can significantly improve mood and reduce stress, while walking in a noisier urban setting without shade and plants or green space can increase exposure to heat, air pollution and traffic noise, thereby increasing stress levels and heat-related discomfort.

As reported by Mary Kate Brogan, the study, “The Impact of Urban Walking on Psychophysiological Well-Being,” published in Cities & Health in September 2022, suggests that environment matters when exercising for mental health and supports a growing body of evidence that planning urban environments to incorporate green space can improve residents’ overall health.

This study builds on research in older adults extending the protocol to healthy adults exploring the impacts of walking in varying environmental conditions on psychophysiological outcomes (mood, working-memory and heart rate variability (HRV)). Participants undertook a 20 to 30-minute walk in both an urban green and gray setting, one week apart, with varying levels of air pollution and heat. Walking in the urban green setting increased positive mood and HRV and decreased self-reported stress and arousal. Thermal sensation in the urban green setting was lower compared to the urban gray setting.

The results of the study build on evidence that there are potential beneficial effects of urban green settings with respect to heat and particulate matter (PM2.5). These results show psychophysiological benefits of short walks within urban green settings, during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has implications for public health and how people engage with our local environments for physical activity.

For more information, please read the source article.

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