The Efficacy of a Brief Nature Sound Intervention on Muscle Tension, Pulse Rate, and Self-Reported Stress: Nature Contact Micro-Break in an Office or Waiting Room

HERD. 2016 Oct;10(1):45-51. doi: 10.1177/1937586715619741. Epub 2016 Jan 6.


Background: There is a growing recognition that environmental design impacts health and well-being. Nature contact is a design feature or exposure that is especially important in public health and healthcare. To date, there are limited findings on the impact of nature sounds.

Objective: This experimental study was designed to examine the effect of nature sounds on physiological and psychological stress.

Methods: Participants were randomized into one of three groups-silence (n = 9), nature sound (n = 17), and classical music (n = 14)-and listened to the assigned sound for 15 min in an office or waiting room-like environment. Pre- and postdata were collected including muscle tension (electromyogram), pulse rate, and self-reported stress.

Results: With the exception of pulse rate, there were no statistical differences in baseline or demographics among groups. A paired t-test by group showed a decrease in muscle tension, pulse rate, and self-reported stress in the nature group and no significant differences in the control or the classical music groups. The significant reduction in muscle tension occurred at least by 7 min of listening to the nature sound.

Conclusion: This study highlights the potential benefit of even very brief (less than 7 min) exposure to nature sounds. Brief nature sound "booster breaks" are a promising area for future research with important practical implications.

Keywords: evidenced-based environmental design; nature contact; office; public health; stress reduction; waiting room; wellness by design.

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Tonus*
  • Music*
  • Self Report
  • Sound*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult