3 Reasons You Might Want to Take a Walk in the Woods
As I write this article, I’m in a room filled with windows that lead to my back yard, and in any direction I look I see trees. I’ve always found trees very peaceful and calming, but I had no idea how good being amongst them can be for your health.
This may sound a little odd, but hear me out: A number of different research studies have looked at the benefits of taking a walk through the woods. In fact, in Japan there’s even a term called shinrin yoku (forest bathing) that involves taking a peaceful walk in the woods that’s been a part of their national health program since 1982. This being outside thing for health is catching on.
Different studies have shown different health benefits of talking a stroll through the timbers, from helping boost immunity to reducing loneliness, but there were three things in particular I wanted to share with you today.
Walking in nature may reduce stress
I’ve written before about ways to minimize tension, and meandering through the forest seems a particularly pleasant way to do it. According to research done by some folks at Kyoto University in Japan, forest walking significantly reduced measures like hostility and depression, and the research suggested the higher the level of stress, the greater effect of being in the woods.1
It can also help lower your blood pressure
About 80% of people with type 2 diabetes have high blood pressure, so if you’re one of them, this one’s for you. Another study conducted in Japan had 16 healthy men, mostly in their late fifties, walk in the forest for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.2 Their blood pressure was taken before, during, and right after the walk, plus the next morning, and was significantly lower after spending time in the woods.
It can help with weight regulation
One more thing of nowe: forest walking can help regulate your weight. Exercise in general may achieve this, but when being outside has so many benefits (including some I didn’t even talk about, like improved mental focus), why not try it? Not to mention that if you’re doing something you enjoy, like listening to the wind blow through the leaves or hearing a babbling brook nearby, as opposed to going to a gym to use a treadmill and listening to the sound of the guy next to you blowing his nose, you might be more likely to keep it up.
How can you get started?
Well, the real-deal shinrin yoku involves being in a specific “therapeutic” forest and walking very slowly, and sessions are often two hours or more. None of that probably fits in with your regular old life, but even being outside in any nature or just looking at trees may have health benefits.
Try going for a walk on a nearby greenway or nature trail. Walk in any woodsy area that’s convenient to your house or job. If you live in an urban area, go for a walk at a park where there are some trees and grass.
My favorite local place to walk is on a path that goes around a lake. It sure isn’t shinrin yoku, but I love being there so much that exercise feels easy, plus it’s always a mood-booster, and that’s the whole point.
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