The Secret Health Benefit to Country Living You Never Knew about

Fresh air, healthy brains!

Recently, an assessment was released that identified the 50 cities in the U.S. where you can most enjoy your golden years. But if you've got the option, a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that people over the age of 45 should strongly consider retiring to greener pastures if they want to stay sharp well into old age.

Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) asked 6,500 UK residents aged 45 to 68 to complete a series of cognitive tests that assessed their verbal and mathematical reasoning, verbal fluency, and short-term memory over the course of ten years. What they found was that those who lived in greener spaces seemed to exhibit lower rates of cognitive decline than those in urban areas.

"Our data show that the decline in the cognitive score after the 10-years follow up was 4.6 percent smaller in participants living in greener neighborhoods. Interestingly enough, the observed associations were stronger among women, which makes us think that these relations might be modified by gender," Carmen de Keijzer, ISGlobal researcher and first author of the study, said.

The results aren't all that surprising, given that an increasing body of research shows that spending time outside reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure, and boosts your immune system, which is why more offices are starting to adapt to working in the great outdoors.

"There is evidence that the risk for dementia and cognitive decline can be affected by exposure to urban-related environmental hazards (such as air pollution and noise) and lifestyle (such as stress and sedentary behavior). In contrast, living near green spaces has been proposed to increase physical activity and social support, reduce stress, and mitigate exposure to air pollution and noise. Recent evidence has shown cognitive benefits of green space exposure in children, but studies on the possible relations of exposure to green spaces and cognitive decline in older adults are still very scarce and often have inconsistent results," Keijzer said.

The findings have significant implications, given that, as study co-author Payam Dadvand highlighted, "the proportion of people over 60 years-old in the world is expected to nearly double between 2015 and 2050, and the number of dementia cases has been predicted to grow at a similar pace worldwide."

In fact, spending time in nature can have several health benefits for aging adults. Recent research has found that taking walks can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. And another recent study claims that practicing yoga can seriously boost your brain health in later years. Both of these habits are significantly easier to achieve in the slower pace afforded by the countryside. And if you're looking to relocate somewhere you'll have plenty of old-age company, check out The U.S. States Where People Live the Longest.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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