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Virtual natural environments and benefits to health
Date:5/29/2011

A new position paper by researchers at the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health (ECEHH - part of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry) and the University of Birmingham has compared the benefits of interaction with actual and virtual natural environments and concluded that the development of accurate simulations are likely to be beneficial to those who cannot interact with nature because of infirmity or other limitations: but virtual worlds are not a substitute for the real thing.

The paper includes details of an exciting project underway between the collaborating institutions to create virtual environments to help identify the clues and cues that we pick up when we spend time in nature.

The study is published in Environmental Science & Technology on 1st June 2011.

The paper discusses the potential for natural and virtual environments in promoting improved human health and wellbeing.

We have all felt the benefit of spending time in natural environments, especially when we are feeling stressed or upset. The researchers describe creating virtual environments to try to identify just how this happens. It may be that the colours, sounds, and smells of nature are all important, but to different extents, in helping to provide mental restoration and motivation to be physically active.

It was recognised that, while some studies have tried to explore this notion, much of the work is anecdotal or involves small-scale studies which often lack appropriate controls or statistical robustness. However, the researchers do identify some studies, such as those relating to Attention Restoration Theory, that are valuable.

Key to the research is an exploration of the studies that showed a direct relationship between interaction with the natural environment and improvements in health, and the potential such activity has for becoming adopted by health services around the world to the benefit of b
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Contact: Andrew Gould
andrew.gould@pcmd.ac.uk
44-139-268-6107
The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry
Source:Eurekalert

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