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Riikka Puhakka from Lahti studies nature’s impact on health and wellbeing

Riikka Puhakka, an Academy Research Fellow from Lahti, has been studying the interaction between human and nature for years and has emphasized the connection between living environment and human health.
Researcher Riikka Puhakka received the Academy of Finland Award in June 2023. Photo: Academy of Finland

Riikka Puhakka has been particularly interested in the experiences of young people: what nature means to them, and how it affects their well-being. The young people’s answers have touched and sometimes even moved the researcher.

– Some adolescents have described their experience by saying that you can breathe, sing or shout freely in nature – that you can be yourself in nature, and no one judges unlike other people may sometimes judge, Puhakka says.

– Some young people have also described that they feel small in the forest. There you can notice that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and your own problems no longer seem so big. Nature can bring inner peace, comfort and a sense of security, Puhakka describes.

The connection with nature is adopted at young age

Riikka Puhakka herself grew up in the countryside and lived her entire youth in the middle of nature.

-Nowadays hiking and spending time at the summer cottage bring nature experiences into my everyday life. Even on holidays, our family prefers to travel to nature destinations rather than to city holidays, says Puhakka.

Puhakka praises Lahti’s nearby forests and shorelines, which can be found around the city.

– In Lahti, nature is easily accessible to everyone, even in the city center.

Puhakka enjoys Lahti’s nature even in winter. One of her favorites is Tapanila’s 5 km ski trail.

– A peaceful and nice trail in the middle of the forest near the city center.

Researcher’s Top Picks from Lahti’s nature

  1. Lahti health forest will open in September. It’s worth a visit!
  2. Salpauselkä  trails are attractive for walking, jogging and biking.
  3. Great skiing tracks invite you to the middle of the forest even in winter. The first snow track extends the skiing season and guarantees good conditions throughout the season.
  4. In Lapakisto, you can go hiking in the middle of lakes, rocks and swamps near the city.
  5. At Linnaistensuo, you can admire the unique nature of the marsh and experience the atmosphere of the wilderness.

Riikka Puhakka, who works at the University of Helsinki at the Lahti University Campus, was awarded the Academy of Finland Award in June 2023 for her outstanding research on the interactions between the environment and health.

Read more

Academy of Finland Award 2022: Riikka Puhakka

Research and projects related to nature’s impact on health and wellbeing in the Lahti region