After the traumas of COVID-19 and months of lockdown, the NHS has been at pains to tell us how beneficial a walk in the woods is for our mental health. But there are benefits, too, for our physical wellbeing; here, in no particular order, are some of them.
Walking and hiking help to increase the density of your bones, particularly those of your pelvic girdle and legs. This will reduce the likelihood that you will develop osteoporosis as you age.
It has been found that walking in the countryside has a calming effect. There have been studies that show that the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, is lower when you are walking in nature. The same effect has not been found if you walk in non-natural settings such city streets or on a treadmill in a gym.
Walking for Health group from Frome [SMH]
Apparently, regular walkers have a far lower incidence of cancer. Japanese researchers found that there were lower rates of cancer in wooded regions, where people walk among trees more frequently. The research pinpointed a rise in the number of a type of white blood cell called killer cells, which seek out and destroy tumour cells, after a walk in the woods. There was, as well, an increase in the amount of intracellular anti-cancer proteins,
A large American study shows that older adults who live and exercise in an area with more green space have a lower rate of hospitalization for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The Alzheimer’s Society recommends walking in nature, when possible, for those already diagnosed with dementia.
Regular walking in nature can help lower blood pressure and improve your heart’s health.
Exercise is associated with stress reduction and physical health, both of which contribute to a better night’s sleep. Natural light, in particular sunlight, helps maintain our circadian rhythm, the natural cycle of sleeping and waking that modern life disrupts so effectively.
Plants emit anti-microbial compounds called phytoncides, protection against insects and micro-organisms. These chemicals induce a response in our immune system when we breathe them in, increasing the number and activity of natural killer cells.
Regular exercisers are always happier and healthier but those who exercise regularly out in our green spaces are apparently the healthiest and happiest of all.