Rob Barnett: Study Shows Benefit of Walking in Nature

In this story Rob talks about the mental/emotional well being of walking in nature. Showing that even in the middle of the city we can find nature all around us in the form of the sky, trees, people’s gardens and city parks.

person walking through autumnal woods

Do you enjoy taking a walk to clear your head?

I do, either to break up a day’s work or on any day for that matter.

A study has found that going for a walk among trees, or where you can see the sky, or where you can hear birdsong, benefits city dwellers’ mental health.

Living in a city like Sheffield, we have many trees to walk among and therefore many birds to listen to. Not having many high-rise buildings in Sheffield, there are plenty of places to see the sky.

Still, for many of us, whether spending much of our time at home or in a workplace, it’s possible for days to slip by without us walking outside much.

However, this study shows that we should be in the habit of taking a stroll.

Researchers at King’s College London teamed up with landscape architects J & L Gibbons and art foundation Nomad Projects to use smartphone-based technology to assess the relationship between nature in cities and mental wellbeing.

The beneficial effects of nature were especially evident in people at greater risk of mental health issues.

I can vouch for this.

Currently unemployed, I enjoy walking my dog each day (even in the bleak midwinter).

In my recent work at St Mary’s Community Centre on Bramall Lane, I enjoyed walking the nearby residential streets during a lunch break.

My previous job to that was in Howden, a small town in East Yorkshire, where there were plenty of tree-covered paths to walk near my office. I made the most of them.

King’s College London isn’t alone in using smartphone technology to measure the benefits of nature on mental health.

Several people involved with Sheffield Flourish last year used the Shmapped app, as part of the University of Sheffield’s Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) project, to measure our feelings given by being in nature.

Most of us started by trialling the app during this walking tour:

Giving a month of feedback, using Shmapped, made me appreciate how much nature is in Sheffield.

Clare Rishbeth, a lecturer in the department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield and a member of the IWUN team, said: “The IWUN project is also using smartphone supported research to look at links between natural environment and mental health.

“We take this further with a large number of face-to-face interviews and arts-based workshops to try and understand in what ways nature may or may not be important in peoples’ lives.

“We have found that in trickier times of life, natural places in the city can provide a sense of restfulness, being away from the pressures of interacting with other people.”

So there you have it: be sure to take exercise in nature. You’ll feel the benefits!

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