More Green Please!

Plant parents – this one’s for you!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

There’s something magical about hiking, gardening, and being around greenery. But say you’re not very… uh… active. Can you still get those bennies just by going outside? 

Enter Marcia Jimenez and colleagues from Boston University. They wondered if green space could boost brain health in women. This experiment included over fifteen hundred nurses and lasted TWO years. Researchers monitored the nurses’ brains using cognitive tests, like measuring reaction time and attention span. Their surrounding green spaces – think parks, gardens, and open land – were measured with satellite images.

The take home? Stock up on plants! Participants showed higher brain speed and focus on tests when exposed to green spaces. That’s not all! More green surroundings were also linked to LOWER levels of depression and–perhaps not surprisingly–increased exercise. 

Long-term exposure to the outdoors may delay cognitive decline and reduce dementia risk. Researchers think it makes a case for more green space in the city.

Do fake plants count, too!?

Reference: Jimenez, M. P., Elliott, E. G., DeVille, N. V., Laden, F., Hart, J. E., Weuve, J., … & James, P. (2022). Residential Green Space and Cognitive Function in a Large Cohort of Middle-Aged Women. JAMA network open, 5(4), e229306-e229306.