A study by the University of Michigan is suggesting that taking a short walk in nature may be helpful in preventing burn-out from stress. According to the new study, spending 20 minutes in nature can significantly lower a person’s stress hormone levels. The study has been published in Frontiers in Psychology.
The study found that taking time to commune with nature can have a real measurable effect on a person’s level of stress. Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the research, said, “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”
The study ran for eight weeks. During that period, participants were asked to take a walk in nature for 10 minutes or more, at least 3 times a week. Participants were able to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of their nature experience. The only constraints were that the walk had to be taken in daylight and that the participant must avoid social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading books during the time outdoors.
The researchers measured the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the saliva of the participants to measure the amount of stress present. Samples were taken using saliva swabs both before and after the participant’s time outdoors. The study found that after the walks, cortisol was cut by 10 percent on average.
The researchers are recommending taking at least twenty minutes a day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature. For the purposes of the study, nature was defined as anywhere outside that made the participant feel like they had interacted with nature. In a city, a small park, a patch of grass, or any area with trees can be adequate.