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. 2014 May 1;33(1):8.
doi: 10.1186/1880-6805-33-8.

Physiological and Psychological Responses of Young Males During Spring-Time Walks in Urban Parks

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Free PMC article

Physiological and Psychological Responses of Young Males During Spring-Time Walks in Urban Parks

Chorong Song et al. J Physiol Anthropol. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Background: It is widely believed that contact with the natural environment can improve physical and mental health. Urban green spaces may provide city residents with these benefits; however, there is a lack of empirical field research on the health benefits of urban parks.

Methods: This field experiment was performed in May. Seventeen males aged 21.2 ± 1.7 years (mean ± standard deviation) were instructed to walk predetermined 15-minute courses in an urban park and a nearby city area (control). Heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) were measured to assess physiological responses. The semantic differential (SD) method, Profile of Mood States (POMS), and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) were used to measure psychological responses.

Results: Heart rate was significantly lower while walking in the urban park than while walking in the city street. Furthermore, the urban park walk led to higher parasympathetic nervous activity and lower sympathetic nervous activity compared with the walk through the city street. Subjective evaluations were generally in accordance with physiological reactions, and significantly higher scores were observed for the 'comfortable', 'natural', and 'relaxed' parameters following the urban park walk. After the urban park walk, the score for the 'vigor' subscale of the POMS was significantly higher, whereas that for negative feelings such as 'tension-anxiety' and 'fatigue' was significantly lower. The score for the anxiety dimension of the STAI was also significantly lower after the urban park walk.

Conclusions: Physiological and psychological results from this field experiment provide evidence for the physiological and psychological benefits of urban green spaces. A brief spring-time walk in an urban park shifted sympathetic/parasympathetic balance and improved mood state.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Experimental sites.
Figure 2
Figure 2
The one-minute averages and the overall mean heart rate during the urban park walk and the city area walk. (A) Changes in each 1-minute average heart rate over the 15-minute walk. (B) Overall mean heart rates. N = 12, mean ± standard error. *P < 0.05 determined by the paired t-test.
Figure 3
Figure 3
The one-minute averages and the overall mean ln(HF) value of heart rate variability (HRV) during the urban park walk and the city area walk. (A) Change in each one-minute ln(HF) value. (B) Overall mean ln(HF) values. N = 12, mean ± standard error. **P < 0.01, determined by the paired t-test.
Figure 4
Figure 4
The one-minute averages and the overall mean ln(LF/HF) value of heart rate variability (HRV) during the urban park walk and the city area walk. (A) Change in each one-minute ln(LF/HF) value. (B) Overall mean ln(LF/HF) values. N = 12, mean ± standard error. **P < 0.01, determined by the paired t-test.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Comparison of subjective scoring for ‘comfortable’, ‘natural’, and ‘relaxed’ feelings between the two environments according to the semantic differential (SD) method. N = 17, mean ± standard deviation. *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01, determined by the Wilcoxon signed-rank test.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Comparison of subjective Profile of Mood State (POMS) scores between the two environments. T-A, tension-anxiety; D, depression; A-H, anger-hostility; F, fatigue; C, confusion; V, vigor. N = 17, mean ± standard deviation. *P < 0.05, determined by the Wilcoxon signed-rank test.
Figure 7
Figure 7
Comparison of subjective State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) scores between the two environments. N = 17, mean ± standard deviation. *P < 0.05, determined by the Wilcoxon signed-rank test.

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