A walk in the park may actually have benefits

20 Jul A walk in the park may actually have benefits

Spending time in nature brings many physical and mental health benefits, but a new study
suggests that even just being able to see nature from your bedroom window could support your
health. According to this study, having a view of greenery from your home can reduce cravings.
Contact with nature can demonstrably help improve and maintain our health, according to
scientific research. Last year, for example, a randomized controlled trial found that spending
time walking in nature helped lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and significantly improve
mood.
And, earlier this year, a study concluded that even just having access to green spaces throughout
childhood decreased a person’s risk of developing mental health problems later in life.
Now, research by investigators from the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom suggests
that the passive enjoyment of green spaces — for instance, being able to see the trees in your
back garden from your bedroom window — can help reduce the frequency and intensity of
cravings.
Lead author Leanne Martin and colleagues present their findings in a study paper that features in
the journal Health & Place.
It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s well-being.
But, for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green
spaces adds a new dimension to previous research,” says Martin, for whom the current research
was part of a Master’s degree project.
For this study, the researchers surveyed 149 participants aged 21–65 years, asking them whether
and in what way they had any exposure to nature. They also questioned the participants on the
frequency and intensity of their cravings, as well as how these affected their emotional health.
As part of the survey, the team also looked at the proportion of green space present in each
participant’s neighborhood, the access to green views from their home, their access to a personal
or community garden, and how often they used public green spaces.
Martin and colleagues found that people who had access to a garden — either a private one or a
community one — reported more infrequent and less intense cravings, and people whose views
from home incorporated more than 25% green space described similar benefits.
The researchers note that the participants in question reaped these benefits irrespective of their
level of physical activity, which the investigators took into account.
According to the study authors, the current findings add to the body of evidence showing that
access to nature positively affects different aspects of health.

Nevertheless, the researchers point out that the current study has not verified whether the
association between access to natural views and lower cravings is actually a causal relationship.
This, they say, must be the next step of the investigation.
Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand
problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future,” says
Pahl.

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