Posted on Nov 26, 2015, 6 a.m.
When enjoyed as a group activity, a walk in the woods helps to lower depression, enhance mood, and reduce stress.
As an inexpensive, accessible form of exercise, walking – when done in as a group activity and in a nature setting, may be an under-recognized approach to revitalize mental health. Melissa R. Marselle, from Edge Hill University (United Kingdom), and colleagues assessed 1,991 participants in the Walking for Health program in England, which helps facilitate nearly 3,000 weekly walks and draws more than 70,000 regular walkers a year. Group nature walks were shown to significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being. In particular, people who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation or unemployment especially saw a mood boost after outdoor group walks. The study authors submit that: “nature-based group walks appear to mitigate the effects of stressful life events on perceived stress and negative affect while synergizing with physical activity to improve positive affect and mental well-being.”
Melissa R. Marselle, Katherine N. Irvine, Sara L. Warber. “Examining Group Walks in Nature and Multiple Aspects of Well-Being: A Large-Scale Study.” Ecopsychology. September 2014: 134-147.