On a sunny but cool February day, Santa Claran Gloria Heistein is walking along Central Park lake with her eight-month-old mini-Schnauzer, Augie. They encounter Alex, from Campbell, walking his ten-year-old Airedale, Boss. “Is your dog friendly?” Heistein asks before letting Augie approach Boss.
“My dog is very friendly, so he likes to meet other dogs and people,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I like walking in the park.”
“When you have a dog, you have to walk your dog rain or shine. It’s good for me, too,” Heistein continues. “I got my dog so I’d have a walking companion. On cold days, he’s got his red argyle sweater, and I’ve got my scarf and hat.”
Heistein will be glad to know that a 2008 University of Michigan study comparing walking in a park with walking around town, showed that walking in a park is more mentally refreshing.
“To consider the availability of nature as merely an amenity fails to recognize the vital importance of nature in effective cognitive functioning,” the study concludes. So whatever the weather, head for Central Park (or any park!) and check out the action at the lake, but please don’t feed the birds!
Don’t worry, however, on the days you can’t get to a park. The U of M study also showed that just looking at pictures of nature can improve brain function. Link to the complete article, “The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature,” at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jjonides/publications.html.