There’s something about being in nature that just makes you feel good. Maybe it’s the fresh air, or the sound of the birds chirping, or the sunshine beaming down on your face. Whatever it is, scientists have found that there are plenty of health benefits to getting outside and walking in nature. So if you’re looking for an excuse to take a walk outdoors, read on for some reasons why it’s good for your health!
1. Nature walks can reduce stress and anxiety.
We live in a world that is increasingly full of stressors both big and small. From work deadlines to political turmoil to global pandemics, it’s easy to feel like we’re constantly on edge. Fortunately, spending time in nature can help reduce stress and anxiety by providing a much-needed sense of peace and calm. According to one study, people who walked in nature had lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) than those who walked indoors. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a stroll through your local park or woods—your mind (and body) will thank you for it.
2. Nature walks can improve your mood and self-esteem.
In addition to reducing stress, walking in nature can also improve your mood. One study found that people who exercised outdoors reported having more vitality, higher self-esteem, and more positive emotions than those who worked out indoors. Breathing fresh air also allows increased levels of oxygen to reach your brain and increases your levels of serotonin, which reduces tiredness and helps keep us in a happier mood. Being in the sun also helps your body create Vitamin D, a vitamin that studies have shown may help prevent SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is a disorder that can happen during winter in parts of the world where days are shorter and people don’t go outside as frequently.
3. Nature walks can improve cognitive function.
Spending time in nature has been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive function, particularly in older adults. Studies show that seniors who went on regular walks in a park had improved memory and attention compared to those who walked indoors. Research also shows that being in nature bolsters working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attentional control while being around urban environments is linked to attention deficits.
4. Nature walks can improve physical fitness.
Walking in nature doesn’t just provide mental health benefits—it can also improve your physical fitness. One study found that participants who walked in a natural setting had lower heart rates and perceived exertion (how hard they felt their bodies were working) compared to those who walked in an urban environment. The fact that walking in nature feels easier may make it more enjoyable, and therefore increase the likelihood of sticking with it as a regular exercise routine.
5. Nature walks can help improve sleep.
Feeling tired during the day? Go for a walk in nature! According to a study, spending time in nature may help you sleep better at night. With work, school and other daytime responsibilities, many people are stuck inside for the majority of the day. Then at night, they stay up late looking at artificial screens from their computers, phones and TVs. Exposure to natural light, such as by taking a morning walk outdoors, can help establish a strong circadian rhythm. This in turn leads to healthier sleep patterns. A Japanese study found that forest walks may contribute to the improvement of sleep for individuals with sleep complaints. Forest walks not only improve your mood, but may also increase the amount of hours you sleep and the quality of your sleep.
6. Nature walks can boost your immune system.
Walking in nature can also help boost your immune system, which is important for staying healthy throughout cold and flu season. When you walk in natural settings, you are exposing yourself to all sorts of microbes that can benefit your microbiome and immunity. Studies have shown that exposure to nature can increase levels of white blood cells, which fight infection and disease. So next time you’re feeling sick, skip the gym and go for a leisurely stroll outside instead!
7. Nature walks can increase your creativity.
If you’ve been feeling stuck creatively, heading outdoors could be just what you need to jumpstart your imagination. According to a study of Danish creative professionals, nature has the ability to spark creativity by making us more curious and open-minded to new ideas. Not only does being in nature help to clear our minds, but it also allows us to recharge our directed-attention. The natural world has a significant impact on the first two steps of any creative process: preparation and incubation. This is essential when we are trying to come up with new ideas or solutions. And when you couple being in nature with a walk, you get double the creativity benefit. A study done by Stanford revealed that when a person walks (indoors or outdoors), their creative output rises by 60%.
So lace up your walking shoes and get out there!
The fresh air, natural scenery, and physical activity will do you good. And if you need some extra motivation to get moving, just think of all the ways a walk in nature can benefit your mental and emotional health. From reducing stress levels to improving moods, spending time outdoors is definitely worth it. What are you waiting for?