In a recent study, researchers from the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development found that an hour walk in Grunewald forest in Germany decreased stress in humans, while a walk for the same duration on a busy street in a shopping mall district in Berlin, Germany, did not reduce stress.
The study revealed that activity in the amygdala, a central region in the brain that regulates emotions, including fear and stress, decreased after the forest walk. That result suggests the nature walk had beneficial effects.
“The results of our study show that after only [a] one-hour walk in nature, activity in brain regions involved in stress processing decreases,” Sonja Sudimac, a predoctoral fellow and lead author of the study, told Medical News Today.
Researchers examined the brain activity of 63 healthy participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after the participants took their walks. The amygdala activity remained stable in those who walked through the urban environment.
Researchers were trying to determine the influence of urban and rural environments on mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Prior studies have found that living in urban regions can affect stress processing.
“This is an important finding because it demonstrates for the first time a causal relationship between exposure to nature and change in stress-related brain regions,” Sudimac said.
The study was originally published in Molecular Psychiatry in early September.