Changes in psychological and cognitive outcomes after green versus suburban walking: A pilot crossover study

Junia N. de Brito, Zachary C. Pope, Nathan R. Mitchell, Ingrid E. Schneider, Jean M. Larson, Teresa H. Horton, Mark A. Pereira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This study investigated the acute effects of repeated walking sessions within green and suburban environments on participants’ psychological (anxiety and mood) and cognitive (directed-attention) outcomes. Twenty-three middle-aged adults (19 female) participated in a non-randomized crossover study comprised of once-weekly 50-min moderate-intensity walking sessions. Participants walked for three weeks in each of two treatment conditions: green and suburban, separated by a two-week washout period. Eleven participants completed green walking first and 12 suburban walking first. For each walk, we used validated psychological questionnaires to measure pre-and post-walk scores for: (1) mood, evaluated via the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS); (2) anxiety, assessed by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-S); and (3) directed-attention, measured using the visual Backwards Digit Span test (BDS). Repeated measures linear mixed models assessed pre-to post-walk changes within-treatment conditions and post-walk contrasts between-treatment conditions. Results indicated that anxiety decreased after green walking and increased after suburban walking (−1.8 vs. +1.1 units, respectively; p = 0.001). For mood, positive affect improved after green walking and decreased after suburban walking (+2.3 vs. −0.3 units, respectively; p = 0.004), and negative affect decreased after green walking and remained similar after suburban walking (−0.5 vs. 0 units, respectively; p = 0.06). Directed-attention did not improve from pre-to post-walk for either condition. Our results suggested that green walking may be more effective at reducing state anxiety and increasing positive affect compared to suburban walking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2894
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2 2019


  • Anxiety
  • Directed-attention
  • Green exercise
  • Mood
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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