Another study was just published with results that may motivate us to go outside more. A small study with college students found that taking a walk outside in nature results in more mental health benefits (improved brain functioning) than taking the same length walk inside.
The walks were short - only 15 minutes long, and yet there were differences in health benefits. This was seen in the brain EEGs done during tasks before and after the walks. One health result which benefited more from outdoor walks is in how the brain functions, which the researchers call cognitive function.
Keep in mind: All exercise has health benefits, including for the brain - whether the exercise/physical activity is done indoors or outdoors. Exercise or physical activity is always better than no exercise or physical activity.
Other studies also show that exercising outdoors in natural environments produces more benefits to the brain than exercising indoors. Outdoor exercise enhances "executive functions" of the brain (such as attention, memory, and control of inhibitions) more than indoor exercise.
Bottom line: Get out and take a walk, even if only for a brief time. It's good for you!
A team of researchers at the University of Victoria, working with a colleague from York University, both in Canada, has found that going for a short walk outdoors provides people with more mental health benefits than going for a same-length walk inside. In their study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the group asked volunteers to walk indoors or outdoors and tested them before and after their walk.
Prior research has shown that regular exercise can provide both mental and physical health benefits for most people. But as the researchers with this effort note, little research has been conducted to find out if exercising in some environments compared to others is more or less beneficial. To address this gap, the researchers designed and carried out a study that involved 30 college student volunteers.
Each of the volunteers took two 15-minute walks, either inside or outside. Each also had electroencephalography exams before and after each walk. During the EEGs, the volunteers performed a standard visual oddball task on an iPad to measure brain activity linked to memory and attention. To assess whether walking had any impact on mental performance, the researchers used grades on the oddball task and changes in amplitude of neural response measured using the electroencephalography exams
The researchers found improvements in response time on the oddball task after walks regardless of where they occurred. But they only found changes in amplitudes, which measure neural response, in those people who had walked outside. All such changes were represented by increases, which prior research has shown indicates heightened attention and better memory skills.