researching the nature effect

Studies — and studies of studies — support what many health care professionals, scientists, outdoors people and others believe: Time in nature is good for our overall well-being. A random glance at some research:

Water work: A health project conducted for National University of Ireland Galway centers on the healing powers of green spaces and even blue (water) spaces. Water heals, researchers said. "It's visually stimulating, with a thousand shades of constantly moving blue, and wave-exposed coastlines release negative ions believed to alter our biochemistry, lowering our cortisol and lighting up our mood. Dr. Easkey Britton, a scientist and researcher, spoke of making people more "ocean-literate." She added: "Through this understanding there is empathy and connection, and that's how we overcome the challenges we seems to face."

Green space: A team representing the University of East Anglia in England analyzed data in 143 studies on the relationship of green space and health. The team's report in "Environmental Research" in July validated the work: Populations exposed to green spaces have reduced risk of type II diabetes, heart disease, stress and other maladies. "Although we looked at a large body of research on the relationship … we don't know exactly what causes this relationship," said the study's author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett. Still, exposure to the variety of bacteria in natural areas appears to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Creativity: Profiled in the bestselling book "The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative," researcher David Strayer of the University of Utah found that a group of Outward Bound participants performed 50 percent better on creative problem-solving tasks after three days of wilderness backpacking.

Brain boost: A study involving Stanford and Michigan universities in 2013 found a walk in a nature setting by people suffering from major depression lifted their mood and improved their memory. A conclusion was that incorporating nearby nature into cities may counteract some of the adverse effects of the urban environment.

Bob Timmons