Published December 8, 2020 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Physical and mental health effects of repeated short walks in a blue space environment: A randomised crossover study

  • 1. ISGlobal, Barcelona, Spain
  • 2. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  • 3. Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  • 4. European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, United Kingdom


Blue spaces may benefit mental health and promote physical activity, although the evidence is still scarce. And benefits on physical health are less consistent. The objective of this randomized crossover study was to assess psychological and cardiovascular responses to blue spaces’ exposure.

A sample of 59 healthy adult office workers was randomly assigned to a different environment (i.e. blue space, urban space, and control site) on 4 days each week, for 3 weeks. For 20 min per day, they either walked along a blue or an urban space or rested at a control site. Before, during and/or after the exposure, we measured self-reported well-being and mood, blood pressure, and heart rate variability parameters. For well-being, we also assessed the duration of these potential effects over time (at least 4 h after exposure).

We found significantly improved well-being and mood responses immediately after walking in the blue space compared with walking in the urban space or when resting in the control site. Cardiovascular responses showed increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system, both during and after walking along the blue and urban spaces. However, cardiovascular responses measured after the walks, showed no statistically significant differences between the blue and the urban space environments.

Short walks in blue spaces can benefit both well-being and mood. However, we did not observe a positive effect of blue spaces for any of the cardiovascular outcomes assessed in this study.


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BlueHealth – Linking Up Environment, Health and Climate for Inter-sector Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in a Rapidly Changing Environment 666773
European Commission