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Do you feel it in the sunshine

By Timothy Cocks Science and the world 25 Sep 2014

Walking off depression and beating stress outdoors? Nature group walks linked to improved mental health

Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being, according to the study conducted by the University of Michigan, with partners from De Montfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom. The findings appear in a special issue of Ecopsychology devoted to ‘Ecopsychology and Public Health’.

People who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation or unemployment especially seemed to see a mood boost after outdoor group walks.

“We hear people say they feel better after a walk or going outside but there haven’t been many studies of this large size to support the conclusion that these behaviors actually improve your mental health and well-being,” says senior author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Researchers evaluated 1,991 participants from 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 walks in local natural environments may make a potentially important contribution to public health and be beneficial in helping people cope with stress and experience improved emotions.”

Three takeaways from this – gentle exercise, with others, outdoors. Couldn’t get any simpler.

Keeping with this week’s theme, a bit of the awesome Aussie, Xavier Rudd, and his song The Mother


Do you feel it in the sunshine
Do you feel it in the rain
Do you feel it in the ocean
When the waves are clean
Do you feel it in the evening
When the moon is up
Do you feel it in your bones
When she fills you up
Oh yeah she breathes good luck
Mother Earth Mother Earth

-Tim Cocks


  1. seems pretty obvoius ‘the why’ evolutinoary resaoning seems to suggest we have ‘evolved’ to be integrated with natural surroundings . Research in pain perceptions seems to suggest envrionment affects drug consumption in hosptials and architecture has a big affect on well being …Esther Sternberg has an intresting book Healing Spaces on the topic …Why physio depts are often in dungeons with curtained corridors with little prviacy , windowless builidings are common and pain clinics are often the same may another topic for discussion. Getting out on the hill if you are lucky to live somewhere where this is possible certainly is best medicine going . I am not so sure about groups myself …I wouldn’t join one but I am fairly antisocial .This needs to be taken into consideration when looking at research .Its assumed that as social creatures we need to bond with others doing similar things ..true to a point but if offered as a ‘treatment’ I wouldn’t join !

    1. Thanks Ian. Great point on the social aspect… “day after day, alone on the hill….”.

      Interesting thought on the evolutionary aspect – had me thinking about the work from Moseley and Arntz that demonstrated that shining a blue light while placing a very cold rod on the skin of participants reduced the reported pain provoked. They reasoned that the association was to ‘cold’ and ‘less dangerous’ compared to the red light (‘hot’ and ‘more dangerous’) – but one only needs to look up when outside on a pleasant day….??
      Kind regards

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