Research collected from Finnish knowledge workers indicates that both taking a walk in nature at lunchtime and doing relaxation exercises over lunch have about the same effect on how tense employees feel after lunch. Building spaces that support relaxation exercises, and teaching those exercises to employees, could be a viable alternative to developing nature-based experiences in many locations. For 15 minutes during lunch on 10 consecutive workdays participants in the de Bloom lead study walked in a park, did relaxation exercises, or were in a control group that neither walked nor exercised. The researchers found that “both intervention groups [the people taking the walks and the people doing the relaxation exercises] reported less tension after lunch breaks.” The relaxation exercises included “1) a release-only version of progressive muscle relaxation . . . and 2) a deep breathing and acceptance exercise. . . . These methods were targeted at the most important elements in relaxation: muscle relaxation, deep and slow breathing, and acceptance of the here-and-now.” In summary, “Both interventions - park walking and relaxation exercises - distract attention from the source of stress (e.g., heavy workload, emotional demands, poorly designed work tasks) and instead aim at alleviating individual strain. . . . Park walking and relaxation exercises activities are fairly easy to learn and implement in an organizational setting, and may assist employees in replenishing the resources needed to perform well on the job during the working day. ”
Jessica de Bloom, Marjaana Sianoja, Kalevi Korpela, Martti Tupmisto, Ansa Lilja, Sabine Geurts, and Ulla Kinnunen. “Effects of Park Walks and Relaxation Exercises During Lunch Breaks on Recovery from Job Stress: Two Randomized Controlled Trials.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press.