The wonders of walking
BY Added Health Editorial Team | 05 May 2023
Walking in woods or gardening can be a tonic for both body and mind.
It’s no wonder fairy stories take place in woods and forests — they are places of magic and enchantment for our imaginations. Sadly in today’s tech world kids can identify Pokemon before they know real animals and plants. Reconnect with nature by walking or tending a garden. Doctors recommend it as a tonic for the body and mind. GPs in the UK now prescribe gardening for anxiety and depression (and cognitive impairment). The Japanese practice of “forest bathing” (known as shinrin yoku) involves being calm and quiet among trees, observing nature and breathing deeply. Forest bathing reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and is widely used in Japan and South Korea for preventative health. Shinrin yoku helps with anxiety, depression and sleeplessness.
Switch off your phone and slow down
Turn off your phone — even to use your “Picture This” app to identify the species of tree! Slow down. Don’t think about goals. If you’re with someone, resist the urge to chat. Sit and listen. In the UK, 13% of the land area is forest. Wolves and bears once roamed there. Magic and folklore abound. Breathe deep and feel the magic atmosphere of the forest.
Put your trainers on and head outdoors!
Walking in nature is a great way to de-stress and practice mindfulness. Getting outdoors not only gives you a dose of vitamin D. It is great for your cardiovascular system and for reducing body fat, particularly those extra inches around the belly.
Daily walks also help to:
- Regulate blood glucose levels, especially if you walk after eating a meal.
- Reduce cortisol levels (a hormone released by your adrenal glands when in fight-and-flight mode), and lower your resting heart rate and blood pressure.
- Improve your general mood, and even manage anxiety and depression, by exposure to nature.
Walk at your own pace for as long as possible. Even 20 minutes is beneficial! Going back to simpler surroundings helps you unwind and declutter the mind.
The take-home message
Song, C., Ikei, H. and Park, B.-J. et al. (2018) ‘Psychological Benefits of Walking through Forest Areas’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15 (12), Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15122804