Just 20 minutes walk with nature could be your natural stress-relieving remedy
A twenty minute stroll or merely sitting in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. That’s the finding of a new study that has been published in Frontiers in Psychology.
“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,” said Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of this research.
Nature pills could be a low-cost solution to reduce the negative health impacts stemming from growing urbanization and indoor lifestyles dominated by screen viewing. The study was designed in order to find a realistic estimate of an effective dose of nature pill.
In this study, participants were asked to take a nature pill with a duration of 10 minutes or more, at least 3 times a week over a 8 week period. Levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, were measured from saliva samples taken before and after a nature pill, once every two weeks.
Results showed that just a twenty-minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. But if you spent a little more time immersed in a nature experience, 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking, cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate
“Participants were free to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of their nature experience, which was defined as anywhere outside that in the opinion of the participant, made them feel like they’ve interacted with nature. There were a few constraints to minimize factors known to influence stress: take the nature pill in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading,” explained Hunter.
Day to day differences in a participant’s stress status was calculated by collecting four measures of cortisol change due to a nature pill.
Results showed that just a twenty-minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. But if you spent a little more time immersed in a nature experience, 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking, cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate. After that, additional de-stressing benefits continue to add up but at a slower rate.
“Healthcare practitioners can use our results as an evidence-based rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription,” said Hunter.