Mental Health Benefits of Walking Outside in Nature
Thirty years ago, it was noted that walking was a good way to remain fit and lose weight. However, more recent studies show the mental health benefits of walking outside in nature, and that these benefits may follow you for decades. Why is this such a powerful activity? Take a look at just a few of the mental health benefits of walking outside.
- Reduced Stress: It is well established that walking is a good stress reliever. When you are in a stressful situation and go for a walk, you’re more likely to feel calm, collected, and less anxious. Recent studies show that walking results in the release of chemicals (e.g. endorphins) in the brain that ease stress and benefit your mood.
- Better sleep: Millions of people have difficulty sleeping and rely on all types of sleeping aids including medications, herbs, and supplements. In reality, one of the best ways to get good sleep every night is to walk regularly. Walking is a physical activity, but it also exhausts the mind. So after a long walk, you can rest assured that you will get good sleep.
- Improved mood: There is no doubt that if you walk regularly it will enhance your mood and lift your spirits. Many people report feeling elated and happy after a decent outdoor walk. Studies show that walking pushes your brain to release endorphins, which are known to help lighten your mood and build some positive emotions throughout your body. In addition, researchers reveal that regular walking outdoors also makes the individual feel calm and reduces levels of aggressiveness, hostility, and anger- all this results in reduced tension and an elevated mood.
- Reduced loneliness: If you spend a lot of time alone, you may find that walking with a friend or a group can help reduce the loneliness and isolation that comes with living the life of a single person. Walking outside gives you a chance to connect with someone else in a way that spending time with others engaged in different activities may not. Best of all, you might forget how far you’ve walked, giving you a few extra steps after each walk!
- Stronger Creativity: Walking outdoors also increases the flow of creative juices. When you are sitting at your desk, and you come up against a mental problem you just can’t tackle, it is time to take a walk. This physical activity can help you clear your mind and trigger new ideas. Researchers have noted that individuals who are constantly physically active tend to be more creative than those individuals who don’t move as much.
- Increased self-esteem and confidence: Need more reasons to go for a walk? When you walk outdoors regularly, you’re likely to experience a serious confidence boost! It can help you improve your body image, and when you feel like you look great, you act with more confidence. That push will help you tackle any challenges that come your way.
- Fresh Focus: Many studies now show that even a brief walk outside can rejuvenate or freshen the mind. People who take a break from work-related activities and walk outside have been found to have improved concentration, better focus, and are re-energized. Breathing in the fresh air and getting more blood to the brain during physical activity are more likely responsible for the enhanced rejuvenation of the brain.
Can’t You Get These Benefits From Walking Inside?
You can join a fancy gym with its exotic machines and equipment, but staring at the same four walls can get monotonous in no time. Research shows that individuals who participate in outdoor activities report more enjoyment and satisfaction from their exercise. When you walk, the scenery is constantly changing, you meet new people, you get to see the flowers and of course, a chance to pet the friendly neighborhood dogs. And you can always change the scenery by changing your walk route regularly. That option means added health benefits those walking on a treadmill or on an indoor track just don’t get.
How Long Should I Walk?
It’s important to remember that any amount of physical activity is better than none at all, but the current guidelines recommend that adults perform about 150 minutes of moderate activity. But if you are a senior and just starting to walk, 45-60 minutes for five days a week is adequate. Your walks should be brisk but there’s no harm in starting small and then building up gradually.
Tie Your Shoes and Head Outside!
The mental health benefits of walking outdoors will last many years, even into old age. Ample studies show that people who used to walk outdoors continue to thrive as seniors and lead a great quality of life with a sound mind. Remember, though, you have to walk regularly to get the true benefits. Moreover, depending on your age and fitness level, you can also perform aerobics, weight lifting, pilates, and many other activities besides or in addition to walking. At the end of the day, physical exercise is not all about losing weight; if the exercise makes you feel happy and refreshes your mind- that is the most important.
Contact us today if you are looking to improve your overall health and wellness!