World.- A new study identifies the benefits it brings to mood and personal well-being by taking short and frequent walks in places with water. For authors, identifying these elements is key to the development of more livable, sustainable and healthy cities.
Short and frequent walks through blue spaces – those where there is water, such as beaches, lakes, rivers or fountains – could bring benefits to people’s well-being and mood. This is demonstrated by research led by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal), a centre promoted by the «la Caixa» Foundation.
The study, published in Environmental Research and developed under the Blue Health project, is based on data from 59 participants. All of them walked 20 minutes a day for a week for a blue space; another week, they did it for an urban space and, another, they spent the same time resting in a room.
«We saw a significant improvement in well-being and mood right after walking through the blue space, compared to urban space or rest,» the authors observe
The beach of Barcelona constituted the blue space, while the urban space formed a route through the streets of the city. The research team measured before, during and after each activity the wellness and mood parameters using questionnaires, as well as the blood pressure and heart rate of each participant.
«We saw a significant improvement in well-being and mood right after walking through the blue space, compared to walking through urban space or rest,» explains Cristina Vert, is ISGlobal’s first author and researcher. Specifically, after briefly walking along the beach, participants pointed to improvements in their mood, vitality and mental health.
On the contrary, the team has not identified benefits for cardiovascular health, although it considers that it may be because of the conditions of the study itself. «We have evaluated the immediate effects of walking briefly in front of a blue space,» Vert says. «Continued and lasting exposure to these sites could have positive effects on cardiovascular health.»
The importance of the environment in health
«The psychological benefits of physical activity vary depending on the environment in which it is carried out, being better in blue spaces than in urban spaces,» says Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, coordinator of the study and director of ISGlobal’s Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative.
The psychological benefits of physical activity vary depending on the environment in which it is carried out, being better in blue spaces than in urban spaces
Numerous researches from the same center support the benefits that green spaces bring to health, from reducing the risk of obesity, improving child care or slowing down physical decline during aging. This study adds blue spaces as a flattering environment for mental health.
«According to United Nations data, 55% of the world’s population currently lives in cities. It is crucial to identify and enhance those elements, such as blue spaces, that improve our health,» concludes Nieuwenhuijsen. «Only in this way will we be able to create more liveable, sustainable and healthy cities.»