Page last updated at 01:41 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 02:41 UK

Farm trips may 'alleviate stress'

Children on a farm open day
Farms visits are not just for children

Spending time on a farm could alleviate stress and tiredness, a study suggests.

University of Essex scientists said going to the countryside, having contact with farm animals and riding on tractors could be beneficial.

The activities could help people shake off feelings of anger, confusion and depression, according to the study.

The research, released by sustainable farming charity Leaf ahead of an annual Open Farm Sunday this weekend, analysed groups of farm visitors aged 18-84.

Scientists said they found that after spending a few hours on a farm, 95% of those analysed were less tired, 91% less tense and 55% felt revitalised. Men and the over-30s benefited most from the few hours outside, the research suggested.

Stressed out 30-somethings and over-worked men... might be advised to ditch the gym workout or snooze on the sofa and get out into the countryside
Professor Jules Pretty, University of Essex

Professor Jules Pretty, head of biological sciences at the university, said there was "growing evidence" that exposure to green space and woodlands was good for people.

"This study clearly shows that spending as little as two hours on a farm benefits a person's wellbeing and enables them to connect with nature.

"In particular stressed out 30-somethings and over-worked men who are looking to recharge their batteries might be advised to ditch the gym workout or snooze on the sofa and get out into the countryside and on to a farm instead."

He said younger people brought up in cities could also improve their health and awareness of environmental issues by "getting close to nature".


Participants in the study were asked to complete a mood questionnaire and improvements in six areas were recorded.

Anger and hostility levels decreased for 70% of visitors, feelings of confusion and depression both decreased for 80% of visitors, vigour increased for 55% of visitors, tension and anxiety levels decreased for 91% and nearly all visitors - 97% - said they felt a reduction in fatigue.

After visiting the farm, those aged over 30 and men experienced a "statistically-significant" increase in energy levels or vigour, said the report.

When asked what they had most enjoyed participants most commonly answered either scenery and fresh air, the farm walk, contact with farm animals or tractor ride.

Leaf (Linking Environment and Farming) - which aims to integrate modern farming with conservation - is organising open days on about 500 farms in the UK on 1 June.

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