Recent research shows that taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus.” “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.” In fact, Dr. Marc Berman and researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk through an arboretum. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”Michael Posner, professor emeritus at University of Oregon who studies attention, says that our brains gets fatigued after working for long periods of time, “particularly if we have to concentrate intensely or deal with a repetitive task.” According to The Wall Street Journal, taking a stroll in the park “could do wonders” while drinking lots of coffee will just be further depleting.
One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city. Researchers also found a decrease in both heart rate and levels of cortisol in subjects in the forest when compared to those in the city. "Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy," they concluded.Among office workers, even the view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.
You may actually not even have to enjoy the park, botanical garden, or arboretum to get the benefit. Dr. Berman said, “You don’t necessarily have to enjoy the walk to get the benefit. What you like is not necessarily going to be good for you.” For them, just looking at images of nature engages “our so-called involuntary attention, which comes into play when our minds are inadvertently drawn to something interesting that doesn’t require intense focus, like a pleasing picture or landscape feature. We can still talk and think while noticing the element.”So, take a short walk in a park or hike in a forest to refresh your body and your mind.
To learn how Fitness for Health can help you improve your mind-body connection utilizing state-of-the-art fitness technology, visit www.FitnessForHealth.org or call 301-231-7138.