Why to run in parks when you’re in a city

If you've ever had a nice run in your city's park land, and then felt your stress levels rise as you fight your way through city streets to finish your run at your hotel, you weren't imagining things.

According to research on the psychological and physical stress reactions to different urban environments, being in a city park is much more restorative than being in a typical downtown.

Finnish researchers measured the moods and salivary cortisol levels of 77 people in three parts of Helsinki: an urban park, an urban wooded area and the city centre. Cortisol is a hormone that's released in response to stress; higher levels in saliva reflect higher blood levels, and indicate that the body is reacting to a stressful environment.

In the two park environments, the study participants reported much higher feelings of being restored, as well as improved mood, creativity and vitality, compared to when they were in the city centre. The feeling of restoration was slightly higher in the wooded environment.

Physically, the results matched how the participants said they felt - cortisol levels were much lower in the two park settings.

"The findings suggest that even short-term visits to nature areas have positive effects on perceived stress relief compared to built-up environment," the researchers concluded. To our mind, they support our long-time advice: Book hotels near parks whenever possible so that running can best work its restorative magic on your psyche when you're traveling."