Walking, especially outdoors benefits your mood, mental health and brain function

By Nicole Ganglani | Art by Tricia Guevara | Photo by Arek Adeoye/Unsplash

There’s something about walking that sets it apart from other physical activities. For one, walking outside involves nature—a stimulus that offers great benefits to the body and brain. There’s an emerging body of research that proves why walking, especially in the outdoors, boosts mental and physical health. 

An article published on Outside Online points out that walking in nature could be science’s newest drug-free medicine. Still, it’s easy to underestimate walking because people forget it’s an actual exercise and it doesn’t require much. 


Walking eases mental fatigue

A study published in 2018 found that walking outside can actually improve your mood more than a treadmill workout. When you go out for a walk, you’re exposed to nature, which has restorative effects compared to running indoors on a treadmill. The same study also showed the therapeutic advantages of walking (relaxation, calm and revitalization), which work best if you’re stressed. Regularly walking in nature has also been found to reduce anger and hostility.

Being exposed to nature has also been known to lower blood pressure and promote physical healing. It’s the reason why Greek physician Hippocrates once said that walking is “man’s best medicine.” It’s the ideal activity to do after a long day of work to relax instead of binging on junk or alcohol.

Moreover, the attention restoration theory  states that you tend to concentrate better if you are exposed to nature. Walking from your house to perhaps a short destination will not only help you save money but also organize your mind and decrease your stress levels caused by traffic or even incompotent drivers on the road.


Walking transports you to another world

Another study in the US found that over 87 percent of people spend most of their time indoors. If you combine this with a lack of physical exercise, chances are you’re going to experience a negative change in your mood. This is where the magic of walking comes in because it exposes you to a different environment while giving you the benefits of physical activity.

Psychologists believe that a curative environment must have three factors: a place where you can escape from your daily routine; visual and sensory elements; and an environment that covers a wide expanse. And walking outdoors can afford all three, even in cities where a visit to a park or a green space can help. 

Regularly walking in nature has also been found to reduce anger and hostility

Walking is great exercise for the brain and heart

There’s research proving that sitting is the real silent killer. That’s why if your job requires you to sit in front of a desk for hours, you might have already gotten the “go for a walk outside” advice. There’s a reason for that: Walking influences your brain (by improving the blood flow and hormone levels) and body (your behavior), which impacts your daily performance. If you’re in a creative rut or feel you’ve become more forgetful, try to go for a 10 minute walk to improve your memory function and brain coordination. 

Walking for example has been found to send a hydraulic wave through your body, which increases blood flow to the brain. Walking also aids your heart and gut by providing more oxygen. A 30-minute daily walk for example can decrease your risk of suffering from heart disease and stroke by about 35 percent. This among many other reasons is why you should prioritize walking on a daily basis. After all, it’s one of the easiest exercises you can do regularly. Don’t take it for granted. 

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