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Open AccessArticle

Changes in Psychological and Cognitive Outcomes after Green versus Suburban Walking: A Pilot Crossover Study

1
Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, 1300 S 2nd St, Suite 300 Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
2
Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, 1530 Cleveland Ave North, Suite 301b St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
3
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, University of Minnesota, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska, MN 55318, USA
4
Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, 1819 Hinman Avenue, Rm 302 Evanston, IL 60208, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(16), 2894; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16162894
Received: 5 July 2019 / Revised: 9 August 2019 / Accepted: 11 August 2019 / Published: 13 August 2019
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Abstract

This study investigated the acute effects of repeated walking sessions within green and suburban environments on participants’ psychological (anxiety and mood) and cognitive (directed-attention) outcomes. Twenty-three middle-aged adults (19 female) participated in a non-randomized crossover study comprised of once-weekly 50-min moderate-intensity walking sessions. Participants walked for three weeks in each of two treatment conditions: green and suburban, separated by a two-week washout period. Eleven participants completed green walking first and 12 suburban walking first. For each walk, we used validated psychological questionnaires to measure pre- and post-walk scores for: (1) mood, evaluated via the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS); (2) anxiety, assessed by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-S); and (3) directed-attention, measured using the visual Backwards Digit Span test (BDS). Repeated measures linear mixed models assessed pre- to post-walk changes within-treatment conditions and post-walk contrasts between-treatment conditions. Results indicated that anxiety decreased after green walking and increased after suburban walking (−1.8 vs. +1.1 units, respectively; p = 0.001). For mood, positive affect improved after green walking and decreased after suburban walking (+2.3 vs. −0.3 units, respectively; p = 0.004), and negative affect decreased after green walking and remained similar after suburban walking (−0.5 vs. 0 units, respectively; p = 0.06). Directed-attention did not improve from pre- to post-walk for either condition. Our results suggested that green walking may be more effective at reducing state anxiety and increasing positive affect compared to suburban walking. View Full-Text
Keywords: green exercise; physical activity; anxiety; mood; directed-attention green exercise; physical activity; anxiety; mood; directed-attention
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de Brito, J.N.; Pope, Z.C.; Mitchell, N.R.; Schneider, I.E.; Larson, J.M.; Horton, T.H.; Pereira, M.A. Changes in Psychological and Cognitive Outcomes after Green versus Suburban Walking: A Pilot Crossover Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 2894.

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