Quick Hits: Find Nature, Do Yoga to Beat Stress

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You may very well want to go for that outdoor stroll or hop onto a yoga mat after two new studies revealed promising findings about these stress-busting activities.

If you’re stressed, you may want to take a nature walk according to a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology. Researchers found that as little as 20 minutes a day spent in nature can significantly lower stress hormone levels. If you’re unable to walk or prefer to stay put in one spot, researchers found that simply sitting in a place where you feel connected to nature has the same effect.

“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of this research. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”

Scientists believe these so-called “nature pills,” which healthcare professionals could prescribe to their patients, could be a free or low-cost way for patients to reduce their cortisol levels and, in turn, their daily stress levels. “Healthcare practitioners can use our results as an evidence-based rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription,” says Hunter. “It provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels in the context of normal daily life. It breaks new ground by addressing some of the complexities of measuring an effective nature dose.”

If you prefer to unplug in Downward Dog, consider the findings of a research review published in March 2019 in the journal Occupational Medicine: Those who practice yoga at their workplaces may be less stressed out than those who don’t.

For the report, researchers considered data from 13 studies containing about 1,300 participants that found the overall effects of yoga on mental health outcomes were beneficial, specifically on stress. The researchers also considered the connection between yoga and heart health, but no correlation was found. Other measures of yoga’s influence reported positive effects of the practice or no change at all.

“Yoga at work could be one of the chosen programs to reduce stress levels, and usually requires low investment, with minimal equipment,” said lead study author Laura Maria Puerto Valencia of the Bavarian Health and Food and Safety Authority in Munich, Germany, per Reuters.

So who’s ready to add a “Namaste” meeting with us to the office Outlook calendar?

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