The last thing you need is one more article telling you to exercise.
Seriously, though. I can hear your eyes rolling from here. “We’re not idiots, Elira… We all know it’s important, okay!”
Don’t worry, we’re NOT going there. We respect you too much for that!
You’re already enough.
Everyone knows that taking walks is good for bodies. Legs get stronger, respiratory rates are elevated, calories are burned… that’s all old news.
We’re taking you beyond that.
It’s about fascinating research revealing that WHERE you get your exercise can make a BIG difference, not only in your body but in your mind as well.
It’s called Ecopsychology
Study results are sparking changes around the world.
Policymakers are addressing ‘Park Deserts’ and working to bring natural beauty to their cities.
Businesses are enabling their employees to access green spaces.
Institutions are designing buildings with natural light and views from large windows in mind.
Forest Schools, which have been in existence in Scandinavian countries for years, are creeping into and exploding across the US.
All the studies agree… the verdict is in.
A 30-minute walk is always a good idea, yes. But it’s even a better idea if it’s taken in the wild rather than on a treadmill or along an urban sidewalk.
What exactly have the studies of Ecopsychology shown?
Both physical and mental effects on study participants have been striking. Researchers saw an across-the-board…
- Decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- Improvement in self-esteem
- Increase in relaxed feelings
- Dissipation of aggressive tendencies
- Improvement in ADHD symptoms
- Lowering of blood pressure
- Enhancement of Natural Killer cell levels in the immune system
But why though?
Why does a walk in the woods beat out a walk in the neighborhood?
Well, the jury is still jusssst out of reach on that. Now that so many studies detailing the effects have concluded, there will certainly be more focus on the ‘why’ behind the phenomenon.
But Japanese research around the cultural practice of ‘shinrin-yoku’, also known as ‘forest bathing’, purports the inhalation of aerosols experienced on a meandering, mindless walk through the woods is behind the incredible effects seen in the immune system.
And an American report concluded that considerable contact with the earth’s surface, known as ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding, induces a change in our electrical charges… or something like that!
So… how much nature do we need?
Is 5 minutes of sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee enough? I’m afraid not. Though that sunshine would still be better than the filtered light inside, it’s going to take a little more effort.
But to earn all the incredible health perks discovered in these studies there did seem to be a magic number. Thankfully, it’s very, very doable.
You ready to hear it?
It’s only 120 minutes per week.
It seems to be a hard line… 15 minutes less and the benefits fall off steeply. But the good news is that those 120 minutes don’t need to be spent all at once! A 30-minute walk 4 times a week in a green space will do the trick.
Are there specific things that can maximize the benefits?
Here are three simple tips to help you get the most from your 120 minutes.
1) Get away from civilization
Logistics play into this, of course. But the further into the wilderness you can go, the better. Noise and air pollution can impact your sensual stimulation and slow the relaxation you’re shooting for.
2) Leave behind goals
Don’t start this walk with the idea of getting your fastest mile in, or making it one farther than last time. Instead, wander aimlessly… go off-trail if it’s allowed and see where your body wants to explore! Stop and touch the trees, smell the flowers, and watch the insects. Meander… don’t “crush it”.
3) Go barefoot!
You can get all those earthing/grounding benefits by going barefoot on your walk. Have a beach handy? Or a well cared for, dirt trail? Kick those shoes off, my friend! You could keep to softer surfaces like green grass or soft sand to start, or even slip some sandals into your pockets if you’re concerned you’ll get sore mid-walk.
So there you have it.
It’s as simple as 30 minutes of gentle movement in an outdoor space to reap immense benefits for your mind and body.
You’re powerful enough to overcome any obstacle in your path.
You’re worth the effort it takes to care for yourself.
You’re able to better your own life.
Get out there and make it a wonderful one!