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Jun 26

A Walk In The Park May Help Cognition In People With Depression; from Journal of Affective Disorders


May 17, 2012


Walking in a natural setting may have benefits for people suffering from depression, according to researchers in Canada and the U.S. Participants in the study who suffered from depression showed improved cognition after a walk in the park compared with a walk in an urban setting.


The small study, led by Marc Berman, a post-doctoral fellow at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, with partners from the University of Michigan and Stanford University, studied 20 people who were diagnosed with clinical depression. Participants were given baseline cognitive tests. They were then asked to think about some difficult, unresolved personal issue before being randomly assigned to go for a one-hour walk either in a woodland park or in a busy urban setting. They followed a prescribed route using a GPS device. One week later, the participants repeated the process, walking in the other setting than the first to which they were assigned. 


Participants showed a 16% increase in attention and working memory after walking in the park compared with walking in the city. However, the nature walk did not alleviate depressive mood relative to the urban walk because both walks decreased negative mood and increased positive mood.


The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and a private grant from the TKF Foundation, and was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.