There is already mounting evidence that walking outdoors surrounded by nature helps lift mood and ease stress. Now a new study indicates it can even help with major depression.
According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, walking outside surrounded by trees, flowers, birds, and other sights and sounds of the natural world successfully lowered levels of major depression in people diagnosed with it.
“There is a growing recognition that walking in nature makes us happy,” said the study author.
Health and medical experts have long known that being in nature has a beneficial effect on one's physical and mental health. This latest study adds to evidence that it can help with major depression in some cases—possibly a type of cost-free therapy for some.
It’s interesting to point out that although doctors already know that walking and other forms of exercise are helpful to the mood in general, this study compared walking in an urban setting with walking in a natural setting. It was in the natural world that made the walk more effective on depression.
TVA maintains over 180 miles of trails that are geared to all types of abilities and activities. Ever since the COVID pandemic lockdown of 2020, it has become evident that public trails and open public lands benefit residents and visitors on a large scale. People flocked to public land to enjoy relaxation, recreation, exercise, and a break from COVID worries.
“We realized that people saw public land as a sort of safe haven,” said Clay Guerry, TVA recreation strategy specialist. “It became very clear to us that it plays a major role in the health and well-being of people in the Tennessee Valley. Perhaps being surrounded by many opportunities to paddle, fish, swim, bike, and hike mean the people of the Valley are getting a boost in stress reduction.”
Public land and water bring economic benefits too. A few years ago, TVA worked with the University of Tennessee Knoxville to try to measure the total economic impact of recreation on the Tennessee River reservoir system.
Surveys were taken measuring the cost of items that tourists and locals purchased for their day on the lake, from floaties to charcoal to boat rentals. It also included money shoreline property owners spent on their homes, such as marina fees and landscaping. The regional economic benefit turned out to be a staggering $12 billion annually or $1 million per shoreline mile.
“We were wowed with those figures,” said Guerry. “They were exciting numbers that proved we were successfully carrying out the mandate of the TVA Act, ‘to make life better for the people of the Tennessee Valley.’ Now we are seeing more and more evidence that ‘making life better’ also includes intangible benefits that can’t be measured in dollars.”
Deciding where to go and what is available when you get there has never been easier. First, narrow down your interests. Do you enjoy boating, fishing (cold or warm water - the Valley has both), hiking, or mountain biking? What about hunting, camping at campgrounds or on undeveloped recreation lands, wildlife viewing, or volunteering?
Once you have a list going, visit the recreation page on TVA.com. You’ll find many areas that offer these activities.