Nature Walks for Improved Mental Health

Posted by Dave Tomar on November 19, 2014

Nature Walks for Improved Mental Health

Take a hike!

Wait!  Come back!  We didn’t mean it like that. We’re actually looking out for your health. And not just your physical health either. According to a new study out of the University of Michigan, walking can help boost your emotional well-being, your mental clarity and your cognitive function.

Medical News Today says that the study out of Michigan is just the latest in a series of research endeavors which demonstrate the varied and far-reaching benefits of regular strolling.  One study from April connected walking-based exercise with higher levels of creative thinking and another study from this summer showed that brisk walking had some therapeutic benefits for those suffering with Parkinson’s disease. 

Walk This Way

Health professionals have long-espoused the value of even low-impact walking.  According to the American Heart Association, only 30 minutes of moderately paced walking a day can reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure, improve your body weight and lower your susceptibility to diabetes or stroke.

The study out of the University of Michigan adds mental health benefits to the already convincing body of evidence suggesting that we should all be walking with regularity.  Researchers evaluated roughly 2000 adults who participated in the UK-based Walking for Health Program.  

The study found that those who did take part in the walking program were significantly less likely to struggle with depression or other mental health challenges.  Those involved in the program who had experienced tragic or traumatic life events were also found to be better equipped to cope with these challenges.  These findings suggest that walking regularly can have therapeutic benefits.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

The study adds several new dimensions to the discussion on walking.  The program examined by researchers is distinguished by its context and its structure.  As to the latter, the program provides participants with group settings.   By walking regularly with others, participants enjoyed more than just the benefits of low-impact exercise.  They also enjoyed the benefits of good company.

Medical News Today points out that this kind of company can make a big difference as you motivate yourself to maintain an active lifestyle.  Walking with a group can be as much a social experience as a fitness routine. 

The other dimension of the Michigan study that stands out is the added benefit that participants saw when walking through nature.  The beauty, peace and stimulation that nature provides can serve as a powerful remedy to the everyday trappings of modern life.  The mental health benefits of ambling through the great outdoors have as much to do with the majesty of your surroundings as with the impact of the exercise on your physical health. 

If you live near a manageable hiking trail, a hospitable park or an accessible nature reserve, consider exploring with friends or family.  If you live in the city or the suburbs, consider venturing outside of your immediate surroundings.  The change of scenery and the fresh air could do wonders for your psyche.


TAGS: health benefits of nature walks