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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

Exercise and stress levels associated with a visit to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve


Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (TAPR) is a rural protected natural area in Kansas, United States. This parcel of public land provides visitors from varying areas with opportunities to experience a remaining collective of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem that once spanned large areas of North America. TAPR also provides visitors with opportunities to engage in nature-based experiences while also executing active pursuits. The researchers examined the effects of visiting TAPR on individuals’ stress and activity levels during fall 2016. Electronic surveys and accelerometers were used to quantify individual stress levels and exercise. Participants (n = 239) traveled an average of 138 km to visit TAPR and spent an average of 143.7 minutes at the park, with an average of 68.1 minutes in moderate to vigorous exercise. A large majority of visitors (88.3%) also reported feeling less stressed than usual while at the park. The results suggest visiting natural areas have the potential to reduce stress and promote exercise, both well-known factors contributing to individual well-being. The results of this case study also convey the significance that accessible natural areas can have regarding opportunities of people to spend time in public lands and their reception of the benefits (e.g., mental, emotional, and physical) gained from the natural experience(s).

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