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When was the last time you laced up your hiking boots and took a walk in nature? If all you see are city streets day after day, your soul can cry for something green. There are endless benefits of nature walks.
However, your busy life might have you pulling long hours at the office and collapsing on the couch with Netflix afterward. Why should you get moving outdoors, anyway? These eight benefits of nature walks will have you lacing up your sneakers and hitting the trail.
1. It Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
Nature walks provide both immediate benefits and long-term health solutions. For example, cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of men and women worldwide. A significant factor contributing to rising rates in western countries is too little exercise.
Hypertension or high blood pressure increases your heart disease risk. However, walking and other cardiovascular activities help lower your numbers by making your ticker work more efficiently.
That’s not the only heart-healthy perk of nature walks, though. Physical activity combined with heading outdoors can lower your cortisol levels. This stress hormone can prompt you to eat more fatty and sugary foods, padding on unwanted weight, straining your heart. Getting it under control can help to curb the cravings that lead to excess pounds and high cholesterol numbers.
2. It Can Boost Your Immunity
Another way nature walks improve your health is through boosting your immunity. Researchers investigated people who participated in the Japanese practice of forest bathing. They discovered more activity in critical immune cells — and the effects lasted up to 30 days after a hiking trip.
The miracle lies in phytoncides, which are chemicals plants emit that ward off predators. When humans inhale these substances, it supercharges their immune response.
3. It Can Help You Lose Weight
Any physical activity increases your calorie burn, and walking might be your best cardiovascular bet if you want to shed unwanted pounds. Particularly vigorous workouts such as HIIT and those that go longer than an hour, such as marathon training, can increase your cortisol levels. If you guessed that shift increases your cravings, you win first prize.
A brisk walk, though, qualifies as moderate-intensity. You won’t experience the same hormonal surge as you will with more intense workouts, but you’ll still get your heart pumping and reap the weight loss benefits.
4. It Can Aid Digestion
Have you heard that you should take a walk after dinner to aid digestion? It turns out that folk wisdom was sage.
Walking after meals can speed up the time it takes for food to move from your stomach to your small intestine. This mechanism may increase your sense of satiety after eating, also helping you shed pounds. Additionally, it can reduce symptoms of acid reflux if you are prone to heartburn.
5. It Can Strengthen Your Relationship
Does your partner scroll through their social media feeds, even when you go out to eat? Today’s ever-connected world can strain those relationships you hold most dear.
However, it’s challenging to walk and scroll. Going for a hike with your partner offers the ideal opportunity to talk free from outside distractions. You could rediscover the very qualities that made you fall in love in the first place.
6. It Can Help You Sleep More Soundly
Nearly every parent knows that a healthy romp on the playground will make naptime much less of a bear. The same principle still applies to adults — getting some exercise will help you sleep more soundly at night.
However, you don’t want to head out too close to the time you usually rest your head. Experts advise that it’s best if you wrap up your exercise routine 90 minutes to three hours before bedtime. Your heart rate and metabolic processes need time to switch from the hectic activity back into rest and digest mode.
7. It Eases Anxiety and Depression
Physical activity — especially when done in nature — can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Part of the benefit stems from hormonal levels. For example, people with anxiety often have elevated cortisol levels, which movement can help balance.
The tricky part about using exercise to ease depression is getting off the couch in the first place. Once you start moving, all those feel-good endorphins kick in, giving you a sense of euphoria that encourages you to keep going. A spin class could seem overwhelming when you’re sad, but a gentle stroll in the park can seem like less of a chore when your motivation wanes.
8. It Reminds You That You Are a Part of This World
Finally, many people today languish in a state of low-grade melancholy, feeling disconnected from everyone and everything else. Nature walks remind you that you are very much a part of a wondrous and often beautiful world.
Make your activity mindful by stopping to observe a bee buzzing around a flower. Watch the sunset with your spouse the way you did when you were teenagers. Smile and say hi to your neighbors and stop to learn the names of their dogs when you pet them.
Lace-Up Your Sneakers and Reap These Benefits of Nature Walks
Hopefully, the eight benefits above will have you lacing your sneakers to reap the benefits of nature walks. Your physical and mental health will thank you.
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