LONDON – According to new research, walking along a canal or river bank could improve your mental health. The blend of blue and green space relieves anxiety and relieves stress, according to a team from King’s College London.
A study of nearly 300 people revealed that strolling along the bodies of water led to significant improvements in well-being and mood. Of the 299 participants, 87 were living with a mental illness.
The study also completed and reviewed some 8,000 assessments using Urban Mind, a smartphone app that examines the impact of different aspects of the environment.
“Canals and rivers contain not only water, but also an abundance of trees and plants, which means their ability to improve mental well-being is likely due to the multiple benefits associated with green and blue spaces,” says Andrea Mechelli. Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health at King’s College London, in a press release.
“The canals and rivers also provide homes for a wide range of wildlife, and we know from other research that there is a positive association between encountering wildlife and mental well-being. Taken collectively, these findings provide a basis of evidence for what we thought about water and well-being and support the proposition that visits to canals and rivers could become part of social prescribing schemes, playing a role in supporting mental health. “
Nature has a powerful impact on the human body
Studies continue to show that spending time in nature is good for people in several ways. The latest analysis is the first to look specifically at the blue spaces. Volunteers were asked to complete a momentary ecological assessment three times a day for 14 days.
“Once arteries of the industrial revolution, canals now play an equally important role in society as green corridors that bring nature to cities, improving community well-being and addressing health inequalities, as well as supporting local employment and economies. “says Richard Parry, managing director of the Canal & River Trust.
“The potent mix of blue, green and wildlife-rich space shows that although built for industry, the repurposed canals are actually among our most important health and wellness spots in our cities.”
In England and Wales alone, people have access to a network of over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers connecting urban and rural areas.
“Nine million amazing people live less than 1km from a canal and if you’re looking for a free alternative to the gym, a car-free commute to work or shops, or maybe just a place to hang out with family or friends friends, I really urge everyone to find their #HappyPlaceByWater this summer, ”says Canal & River Trust Ambassador Dr Amir Khan.
“However, at the moment the mental health benefits of canals and rivers remain speculative in light of its limited evidence base. To overcome this limitation, we adapted a smartphone-based application (app) that was previously used to explore the effects of the urban environment on well-being, to specifically assess the impact of visiting canals and rivers on self-mental well-being. – reported, a strong predictor of mental health in the general population, “the researchers write in the journal PLoS ONE.
People also feel more connected by water
The study also collected detailed information on individuals, allowing researchers to explore how the impact of visiting canals and rivers depends on characteristics such as age, gender or the diagnosis of mental illness.
“A better understanding of the effects of these characteristics is critical for planning and designing urban and rural environments that support mental well-being in all citizens,” say the study authors.
The study authors measured the impact of visits to blue spaces by asking participants if they were currently outdoors and to specify the type of location they were in. Participants also reported whether they have visited a blue space in the past 24 hours. The team measured current mental well-being using 10 questions to identify levels of confidence, happiness, energy, anxiety, loneliness and fatigue.
“Compared to being elsewhere, participants were more likely to feel safe both day and night, as well as feeling socially included when visiting canals and rivers. In addition, they were more likely to describe their surroundings as beautiful, historic, peaceful, and inspiring, “the study authors report.” In contrast, participants were less likely to refer to their surroundings using negative terms such as ugly, poorly interesting, dirty and boring when they visited canals and rivers “.
“Over half of the world’s population lives in cities, a percentage that is expected to increase rapidly in the coming years. Cities are becoming more and more intensified and designed with a growing trend for skyscrapers and a proportionate decrease in green space. People living in cities may not have easy access to blue spaces such as seas, oceans, lakes and ponds. Urban waterways (canals and rivers) offer critical access to nature within the urban environment. Our findings suggest that spending time near canals and rivers is associated with improved mental well-being, ”the team concludes.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.