The Benefits of Walking in Nature

The Benefits of Walking in NatureIt is now pretty well known that walking is an excellent way to stay fit and healthy physically, as well as mentally. But did you also know that you can take everyday walking to the next level when you take it off the treadmill and out into nature. The benefits of walking in nature are even better for our health than regular walking, making it a great habit to try and introduce into your lifestyle. Finding time for any kind of walking is going to be beneficial to your health for a number of reasons. Just 15 minutes a day is enough to lift your spirits, and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Longer walks can also help to tone your legs, help you to lose weight and improve the circulation in your body. A brisk 30-minute walk can help you to lose up to 200 calories while also getting your endorphins going so that you feel really good. With so many benefits of walking, it is hard to imagine that by doing your walking outside it can be even better for your health. Walking in nature means walking outside in an environment that is naturally green and soothing. This could mean a local park, a forest or another green space where it is relaxing to spend your time. This might seem impossible for the average city-dweller, but finding the time to get outside and into nature could have a huge impact on how you feel.

Mental health benefits of walking in nature

Paddy walkWalking in nature can not only soothe the mind, but it can also improve overall mental health by positively changing the way the brain functions, reducing the risk for anxiety and depression. According to a study conducted in 2015 , getting out of the city and back into natural environments helps to lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, positively affecting overall emotional health and making people feel happier. In another study which examined how walking in nature can affect the way a person broods or ruminates (an unhealthy habit that can lead to depression), it was found that people who walked for 90 minutes among quiet, tree-lined paths had improved states of mental health where they were thinking more positively about their lives than they were before they took the walk. Tests on the part of the brain that is used for negative over-thinking, the subgennual prefrontal cortex, were quieter in the participants after walking in nature than before getting outside. In yet more research taken of people who walked in different environments, those who spent time in leafy green areas had lower levels of stress and had higher states of calm and relaxation than those who walked in urban environments. It is also possible to improve your memory, have increased states of creativity and an improved disposition simply by getting out of the city and walking in nature. This variety of research shows that there is a powerful effect in spending time in natural environments for overall mood and mindset, particularly for people who live in cities. Perhaps it is due to breathing the fresh air, or the peaceful time it gives you on your own away from the normal chaos, but there is definitely something about being in nature that brings out the best in us.

Physical benefits of walking in nature

Walk PhotoAs well as the positive mental aspect of walking in nature, there are physical benefits to consider too. Researchers have found that walking in a green space is good for your physical health as much as it is for your mental health. Taking a walk in the forest can contribute to a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate levels, which means improved cardiovascular health as well as reduced levels of overall stress. A walk outdoors can also lead to improved sleep according to a study which explored walking in the afternoon or evening in green spaces and showed that it can lead to improved sleep times and better quality of overall sleep patterns. Better sleep means an improved immune system, as well as higher energy levels to get through your day. Another physical benefit that cannot be overlooked is that you can get better results when walking outdoors and up hills. There is an added intensity that comes with uphill walking like what might happen when going up a hill or other natural terrain. Walking uphill can lead to burning more calories and getting greater tone and definition in your legs by forcing your muscles to work harder. There is no doubt that walking leads to improved wellbeing and doing that outside in a natural environment is going to be hugely beneficial for the body and mind.

Walk in nature in Thailand

Louise and Richard Thomas  founders of Fresh Start

Louise and Richard Thomas founders of Fresh Start

While it might not always be easy to escape the city and to be able to walk outside, we do provide a wonderful chance to get back to nature here at the Thailand bootcamp. There are many beautiful nature walks that can take you through quaint rural villages, rice paddy fields and countryside temples. We also have a 10-tier uphill waterfall walk with a beautiful waterfall on each level. If this kind of environment doesn’t bring about some of the benefits of walking nature, then nowhere will! 

References

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169204615000286 [1] http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.abstract [1] Aspinall P, et al. (2013). The urban brain: analyzing outdoor physical activity with mobile EEG. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 0:1-6. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2012-091877 [1] Berman MG, et al. (2012 Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders. 140(3):300-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.012 http://www.outsideonline.com/1870381/take-two-hours-pine-forest-and-call-me-morning?page=all [1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3216244/

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