Good mental health corresponding to a state of mental and psychological well-being, according to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO) which adds that it encompasses “the promotion of well-being, the prevention of mental disorders, the treatment and the rehabilitation of people with these disorders. »Among the many recommendations to follow on a daily basis to take care of it (meditation, breathing, physical activity, quality sleep, social bond …), green spaces are considered real therapeutic tools. Andthis is also the case for “blue spaces” as revealed by a study carried out by researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.
This study claims that short but frequent walks in the blue spaces, that is, areas that show off water, such as beaches, lakes, rivers or some fountains, can have a positive effect on people’s well-being and mood. Conducted as part of the BlueHealth project and published in the journal Environmental Research, this consisted of carrying out an experiment with 59 adults. For a week, participants spent 20 minutes each day at walk in a blue space then to repeat this habit but in an urban environment. Finally, for another week, these participants spent the same daily time resting indoors.
“Long-term exposure” could have other beneficial effects
The “blue space” walk consisted of walk along a beach of Barcelona while the urban promenade consisted of walking through the streets of the city. Before, during, and after each activity, researchers measured participants’ blood pressure and heart rate and used questionnaires to assess their well-being and their mood. “In these two areas, we noticed a significant improvement in the participants immediately after their walk in the blue space, compared to walking in an urban environment or during the rest time,” explained in a statement Prof. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, member of the ‘ISGlobal and coordinator of this work.
Specifically, after taking a short walk along Barcelona beach, participants reported a improving their mood, of their vitalityand their mental health. The authors, however, did not identify any benefit with regard to cardiovascular health, although they believe that this can be explained by the design of the study. “We evaluated the immediate effects of short walk le along a blue space, ”adds Prof. Cristina Vert, lead author of the study. “Continued and lasting exposure to these blue spaces could have positive effects on cardiovascular health that we were not able to observe currently in this study. ”
More nature in an urban environment?
These results are important since the scientific team emphasizes that they make it possible to confirm that the psychological benefits of physical activity vary depending on the type of environment where it is practiced, and that blue spaces are better than urban spaces in this regard. These conclusions are in addition to those of many scientific studies that have highlighted the many mental health benefits of nature, children as well as adults. Those carried out within the ISGlobal thus evoked a lower risk of obesity, better capacities of attention in children and a slower physical decline in the elderly.
“This new study provides evidence showing that blue spaces are a environment conducive to mental health. According to the United Nations, 55% of the world’s population now live in cities. It is essential to identify and improve the elements that improve our health, such as blue spaces, in order to create healthier, more sustainable and more livable cities, ”the researchers conclude. Note that in 2016, the WHO evoked the positive health impact green spaces in urban areas, especially in terms of psychological relaxation and stress reduction, increased physical activity and potential reduction in exposure to air pollution, noise and excessive heat, to name a few -one of the harmful factors of this environment.