How The Outdoors Can Save Your Memory

How The Outdoors Can Save Your Memory about undefined
Whether it’s the greenery of gardens and parks or the blue hues of aquatic environments, immersing oneself in nature reduces the risk of serious psychological distress - the kind that can lead to mild cognitive impairment and dementia. The academic world virtually ignored the effects of nature on human health until the term Nature Deficit Disorder was coined in 2005. Since then, over a thousand studies demonstrate spending time in nature at any age works wonders for mental health. It’s been shown to lower stress, reduce anxiety, promote calm, increase self-esteem, and lift mood. And these amazing results can not only help you feel better day to day, but they can help you maintain a sharp memory for years to come. Researchers at Washington State University investigated the lives of 42,980 urban-dwelling seniors in the state of Washington. They were interested in the subjects’ proximity to green and blue spaces and whether this affected their mental health. The team defined green space as public parks, community gardens and cemeteries. Blue space was defined as water bodies such as lakes, reservoirs, large rivers, and coasts. Each senior completed a questionnaire that included questions about whether they had symptoms of anxiety and depression. These were rated on a scale from 0 (none) to 5 (all the time). Other questions rated on a scale of 0 to 24 were concerned with whether they experienced lost productivity, were unable to work, or sought professional help due to psychological problems. About two percent of the participants scored above 13, which the research team regarded as evidence of serious psychological distress.

Reduces Chronic Stress By 17 Percent

The key finding of the study was that participants living within half a mile of a green or blue space had a 17 percent lower risk of experiencing serious psychological distress compared to those living further than half a mile. They also found serious psychological distress affected 1.3 percent of those living within half a mile of parks and water compared to 1.5 percent of those living further away. One member of the research team, Solmaz Amiri, explained, saying, “Since we lack effective prevention methods or treatments for mild cognitive impairment and dementia, we need to get creative in how we look at these issues. “Our hope is that this study showing better mental health among people living close to parks and water will trigger other studies about how these benefits work and whether this proximity can help prevent or delay mild cognitive impairment and dementia.” Their study didn’t assess how much time people need to spend in nature to benefit. But an earlier British study did look at this issue and came up with a specific number of minutes per week.

120 Minutes Is All You Need

Using data from nearly 20,000 people, the research team found people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week - whether in a single visit or over several shorter visits - are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well-being than those who don’t spend any time in nature at all. But here’s the thing, if people visit parks, woodlands, or beaches for fewer than the 120 minutes per week, the study shows that they wouldn’t see a benefit to their health. Dr. Mat White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study, said: “The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban greenspaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people.” Co-author, Professor Terry Hartig, added: “There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and well-being, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family.” I couldn’t agree more. So, for the sake of your memory, get outside today and visit a park or take a walk next to a stream, river, lake or ocean. And then do the same thing again tomorrow. Best Regards, The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team

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