It’s a beautiful summer day, sunny and 75 degrees, with just a hint of a breeze in the air. Unfortunately, you don’t know this from actually experiencing it, but from reading the weather app on your phone. You’ve been stuck inside all day, sitting in your cubicle and trying to beat a deadline. A word of advice: stop what you’re doing right now and head for the great outdoors. A nature walk is your best health gain.
There are so many benefits to nature walks, it’s astounding. So often, we forget that the world around us can be an undiscovered paradise—we just have to walk out and find it. Take a look at all the reasons why you need to incorporate nature walks into your daily routine.
- Nature walks are great exercise.
When you get out and hike new terrain, your body isn’t acclimated to the different inclines, declines, and undulations it experiences. As a result, just by walking around, you are getting your heart rate up and your blood flowing at much more of a quick clip than if you were to simply stroll from one side of the office to the other. Best of all, nature walks are much easier on your joints than pounding the pavement during a long run. Never again will you have to ice your knees in agony. And, for those whose youthful vitality has not left them yet, there are always nature runs…though we should caution you that any exposed root or pothole could lead to weeks of down time, and perhaps expensive medical bills. No shame in sticking to the stroll instead!
- Being outdoors is great for your physical health.
In today’s world, it’s very easy for someone to get bogged down with their work. We all have societal and familial pressures that we’re constantly trying to live up to or exceed, and that’s fine—it’s natural. But in order to complete these tasks successfully, we need to make sure that we stay healthy. During a nature walk, you are surrounded by trees, which produce oxygen and help you get more air into your lungs, and as a result, to your brain. Additionally, the sunshine provides you with Vitamin D, which is crucial in maintaining healthy bones and bodily functions. While your work certainly shouldn’t be your focus when it comes to these walks, beginning your daily tasks once more becomes that much easier after you have blown of some steam and provided your body with a much-deserved energy boost.
- Nature walks can prevent depression.
Yes, you read that correctly. This isn’t some new wonder drug that’s being peddled in a snazzy new commercial by a large pharmaceutical company—this is nature walks we’re talking about. According to a recent study at Stanford, 90-minute walks among participants led to decreased rumination in their prefrontal cortices—essentially, the area of the brain responsible for worry, stress, and sadness. What this effectively meant was that while these people were by no means cured of their problems, they were at least temporarily relieved of the symptoms enough to where it made a significant difference in the patterns of their mental processes. Researchers believe that with consistent walking, long-term improvements on depression can be made.
- Green areas can transform your brain into a meditative state.
On your walk, you may discover more than just a few woods-dwelling critters or a neatly shaped leaf. You might even find internal solitude. Studies have shown that nature walks can lead people to slip into meditative states that can last even after the walk has ended. Perhaps it’s the natural beauty surrounding a person when they silently slip into the trees; maybe it’s a combination of the sunshine and the pure air. Most likely, it’s a combination of all of this, coupled with the opportunity to break free from the mundane and everyday occurrences of life as we know it.
- Nature walks make you more creative.
Where do you get your best ideas? The shower? Okay, but remember how last time you almost ruined your laptop when you ran out without toweling off because you had to get your idea down immediately? Yeah, that could have been a costly mistake. And anyway, the ideas you previously came up with as water rained down on your head are nothing compared to the revelations you’ll have on your walk in the woods. Again, it almost certainly factors back to the increased blood and oxygen flow, but there’s something else, something less quantifiable—is it the serenity? The peacefulness? Or just the chance to be able to step outside of oneself? Whatever the cause, you will find that you have the ability to be extremely creative when you go on a nature walk. Just remember to bring your notebook. Laptops typically aren’t the best call for the woods.
- It simply feels good being outdoors.
You’re stressed, aren’t you? Looking for a natural way to relieve that stress? There’s no better way to ease the mind than to bust through those double doors and head out to greener pastures. Literally. Walking in a natural area for an extended period of time has been scientifically proven to provide people with quantifiable improvements to their state of mind. The serenity of the outdoors coupled with the increased blood flow and oxygen will take your gigantic problems and make them seem miniscule by the end of your journey—or at least easier to deal with.
I know your boss is breathing down your neck and I know you have that deadline to make, but I can tell you’re stuck. The work will keep. You need to get outside and sort through your thoughts, and benefit both your re are body and your mind in the process. Sure, it isn’t much, but there are some trees over there next to the office building, and they will do. Get out there. You deserve it. There’s a whole world waiting for you. Go take a walk in the woods.