Toronto: A walk in the park benefits people suffering from depression, say researchers on the basis of new evidence.
Marc Berman, post-doctoral fellow at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, working with Michigan and Stanford Universities, said: “Our study showed that participants with clinical depression demonstrated improved memory performance after a walk in nature, compared to a walk in a busy urban environment.”
Berman, however, cautioned that such walks are not a replacement for existing and well-validated treatments for clinical depression, such as psychotherapy and drug treatment, the Journal of Affective Disorders reports.
Berman’s research is part of a cognitive science field known as Attention Restoration Theory (ART) which proposes that people concentrate better after spending time in nature or looking at scenes of nature, according to Baycrest statement.
The reason, according to ART, is that people interacting with peaceful nature settings aren’t bombarded with external distractions that relentlessly tax their working memory and attention systems.
In a previous study reported in the journal Psychological Science, Berman showed that adults who were not diagnosed with any illness received a mental boost after an hour-long walk in a woodland park – improving their performance on memory and attention tests by 20 percent – compared to an hour-long stroll in a noisy urban environment.
In this study, Berman and his team explored whether a nature walk would provide similar cognitive benefits, and also improve the mood for people with clinical depression.
They recruited individuals from the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor area with a history of clinical depression. Participants exhibited a 16 percent increase in attention and working memory after the nature walk relative to the urban walk.