March 29th is National Take a Walk in the Park Day, and this year we encourage you to celebrate by heading outside and walking in nature! Most of us spend the majority of our workday indoors, with little to no natural sunlight. To make matters worse, the pandemic has kept many of us indoors after hours as well, making time in nature limited.
More and more research suggests it’s important to make time for outdoor activities for our physical and mental health, and why not accrue even more benefits while you’re at it by taking a nature walk? Below, I’ve listed 8 amazing science-backed benefits of walking in nature.
Benefits of Walking in Nature
1. Burn Calories
Walking burns calories, and burning calories can help you maintain or lose weight. Your calorie burn during a walk will vary greatly depending on the length and intensity of your workout, as well as personal factors such as your weight, age, and gender.
2. Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Regular exercise is incredibly important to reduce your risk of preventable diseases such as heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, walking just 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week can help improve heart health and protect against preventable disease.(1)
3. Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Weight-bearing activities like walking can help strengthen bones and decrease your risk for osteoporosis. Walking can also help to ease joint pain by lubricating and strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints.
4. Increase Muscular Strength and Endurance
Walking regularly can help increase your muscular strength and endurance, which can help to improve your overall fitness, and increase your metabolism. Strong muscles can help protect you against injury and will make daily tasks easier. The muscular strength and endurance gained from walking whether outdoor or indoor is functional strength, as most of us walk every day!
5. Improve Aerobic Fitness
Walking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that can help strengthen your heart, lungs, and muscles. To build your aerobic fitness, complete at least moderate intensity walking sessions to provide enough challenge on your heart, lungs, and muscles to improve fitness results over time!
6. Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Research suggests that spending time in nature can help reduce stress and anxiety. Studies have revealed spending time in the forest as opposed to urban environments can decrease levels of cortisol - a hormone often used as a marker for stress.(2)(3) If you’re unable to get outside, one study has even suggested a view of nature out a window can help to decrease stress.(4)
7. Boost Creative Thinking
Walking can help you clear your head and boost creativity. One study suggests that those who are walking can think more creatively than those sitting, particularly those walking outdoors.(5)
8. Improve Short-Term Memory
Several studies have found walking in nature can boost short-term memory, in comparison to those who walk in urban environments.(6)(7) If you spend most of your time in a crowded city or more industrial environments, this is a great reason to find space in your routine to seek nature.
Too cold to go outside for a nature walk? We totally get it! Even if you can’t get outside, you can still accrue plenty of benefits walking inside on an elliptical or treadmill. Check out this 15 Minute Manual Treadmill Workout for Beginners, or our Ultimate 20 Minute Elliptical Workout for a great walking workout you can do indoors.
(1) “Quantifying the Dose-Response of Walking in Reducing Coronary Heart Disease Risk: Meta-Analysis/” US National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2009, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19306107/. Accessed 29 March, 2021.
(2) “Effect of Forest Bathing Trips on Human Immune Function.” US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/. Accessed 29 March, 2021.
(3) “Preventive Medical Effects of Nature Therapy.” US National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2011, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21996763/. Accessed 29 March, 2021.
(4) “The Influence of Forest View Through a Window on Job Satisfaction and Job Stress.” Taylor & Francis Online, 2007, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02827580701262733#.U0VZHOZdXz0. Accessed 29 March, 2021.
(5) “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking.” APA PsycNet, 2014, https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-14435-001. Accessed 29 March, 2021.
(6) “Interacting with Nature Improves Cognition and Affect for Individuals with Depression.” US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health,, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3393816/. Accessed 29 March, 2021.
(7) “The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature.” Sage Journals, 2008, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225.x. Accessed 29 March, 2021.