A recent study by Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University into the physical effects of the brain when interacting with nature has concluded that, a walk in the park or within a tranquil environment can improve your mental health and give walkers a more positive mindset. This is great news for Londoners, who live in an urban environment, but have access to the Thames River walk and nice open green spaces such as the Royal Parks or areas such as Battersea Park or Greenwich.
The study has proven that walkers in greener nature areas reduced stress and had a more positive mental state after the walk, compared to the sample walkers who walked for the same amount of time on streets and in busy, build-up areas.
As an Osteopath in Central London and with an Osteopathy clinic in North London, I think that there’s a real connection between exercise, environment and health and have experienced more positive, less brooding thoughts myself, after a nice walk in one of the Royal parks centrally or Muswell Hill playing fields, close to my North London Osteopathy clinic.
If you’re a Londoner, why not try it out for yourself? Make an honest appraisal of how you feel mentally on a scale of one to ten and then go for a 90 minute walk in the park or along the Thames Path and then honestly apprise yourself afterwards, using the same scale and whatever criteria you feel you can identify and compare.
There are lots of green areas in most parts of London that you can walk around to access this kind of mental health benefit. As already mentioned, the Thames River Walk along the River Path is a good place to start, as it’s the most walked path in the County.
It extends from the Thames’ source at Thames Head in the Cotswolds, which is obviously a long way from London, through beautiful countryside in the Thames valley Oxford, Henley, Windsor and Greenwich to end at the Thames Barrier near Woolwich. If that sounds a bit advanced for you, even though you can just walk parts of it at any time, then head to one of the parks and open spaces in and around the Capital, such as Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park or the parks in central London, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park or St James’s Park.
Another great and relaxing walk is to combine one of the open spaces with a canal walk, such as Regents Park and Regents Canal, Thames Path and Battersea Park, or Regents Canal and the Thames Path. All of these London walks offer greenery, scenery and tranquillity.
You can get a free leaflet on the Thames Path walks from Transport for London or at any Tourist information centre in the Capital. Information of the parks is also available, including routes and walking trails that will allow you to grab some stress-free walking and enable you to charge your mind, body and spirit with some positivity.
There is also a lot of really good information online, especially at http://www.innerlondonramblers.org.uk, which is a website dedicated to walking in and around London. It contains lots of healthy walking ideas, many of which are based in greener settings, rather than the urban sprawl.
Even if you don’t feel any tangible and immediate mental benefits from a 90 minute walk in a park or along the Thames or a canal, you’ll gain physical benefits and easily achieve the recommended levels of daily exercise, as advised by the World Health Organisation.