Is it better to take a walk in nature than in an urban area? Two studies comparing walking in an urban setting with walking in a natural park setting. In both, the walk in nature produced benefits for mood and mental acuity while the urban walk did not.

walk in forest

In the study the researchers investigated the impact of nature experience on affect and cognition. They randomly assigned sixty participants to a 50-min walk in either a natural or an urban environment in and around Stanford, California.

Before and after their walk, participants completed a series of psychological assessments of affective and cognitive functioning.

Compared to the urban walk, the nature walk resulted in affective benefits – it decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and it preserved positive affect. A walk in nature also contributed with cognitive benefits –  increased working memory performance.

This study extends previous research by demonstrating additional benefits of nature experience on affect and cognition through assessments of anxiety, rumination, and a complex measure of working memory giving a better operation span task.

These findings further the understanding of the influence of relatively brief nature experiences on affect and cognition, and help to lay the foundation for future research on the mechanisms underlying these effects.

walk in urban area

J. Thompson Coon, K. Boddy, K. Stein, R. Whear, J. Barton, M. H. Depledge. “Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review.” Environmental Science & Technology, 2011; : 110203115102046.

Gregory N. Bratman, et. al. The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition.” Landscape and Urban Planning (Impact Factor: 2.61). 03/2015; 138:Pages 41–50. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005


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Written by Trine Plambech

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