A walk in nature can boost memory by up to 20%. A walk through the city? No such luck.

In a study, subjects were asked to memorize several strings of numbers and were tested on their recall. Then half of the participants were told to go for a brief walk through a nearby park; the other half were instructed to walk along a busy street.

When they returned to be retested, the subjects who walked through the park scored 20% better. The city group showed no improvement.

Researchers concluded that the city’s various distractions monopolize the brain’s attention. A nature walk, however, allows the brain some restorative downtime to process new information.

The takeaway here involves more than a walk in the park: You can expect less retention if you throw learners back into a busy office or distracting environment right after teaching them something. They need some quiet time to process what they’ve learned.

Source: Berman, M.G., et al. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207-1212.

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