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AWARE Ink Newsletter

Walking Outdoors Supports Your Mental Wellness

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

by Jacquie Peterson


Spring fever is definitely in the air. Soon, warmer weather will be on its way. Before you know it, the trees and hills will be glowing bright green – always a welcome sign of the season.

Why not take advantage of the spring air? Enjoying the refreshed clean air is as simple as stepping out your door for a nice, relaxing walk.

Walking has many benefits.

It’s a little or no-cost daily living activity most people can do. We walk from the time we get out of bed, until we go to sleep at night.

It’s the perfect form of movement that can be adjusted according to fitness level and experience.

For example, if you’re just starting a walking routine you can choose to walk at a pace that is comfortable. And if you already have a walking routine but are short on time, you can take a brisk 10-minute walk around the block.

Physically, walking supports your heart, blood vessels, bones, muscles and immune system as well as lipids, cholesterol and body composition (1, 4).

Additionally, research shows that walking supports mental wellness. With as little as 10 minutes of walking, you can begin to prevent and treat stress, anxiety and depression (3).

Stepping out into the fresh spring air provides an added bonus to your mental wellness. Walking outdoors in a green or forested area increases your vitamin D and serotonin levels (5). Walking in urban neighborhoods also provides positive feelings (2).

Bring Mindfulness into Your Walking Routine

In this series of wellness articles, you have learned that practicing mindfulness benefits your mental well-being.

For review, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to your actions, thoughts, feelings and emotions in the present moment without judgement.

While you’re out walking enjoying the fresh spring weather, you can bring mindfulness into your day. Being in nature is one of the best places to practice. Begin by first noticing and becoming present with your surroundings.

  • Do you see that bright green spring color popping from the trees and hillsides?

  • Do you hear the sound of your feet as they alternate touching the ground?

  • What does that fresh spring air feel like on your cheek?

  • Can you hear the wind whisper through the trees?

  • What color is the sun painting the sky?

As you move down the path, you can use each of these examples, or your own, to help you enjoy the present moment.

When you notice your thoughts, feelings or emotions arise, lifting you out of the present moment, take a breath and refocus on the nature scene in front of you. Take a sip of the beauty and smile and begin again.

References

  1. Bang, K. S., Lee, I., Kim, S., Lim, C. S., Joh, H. K., Park, B. J., & Song, M. K. (2017). The effects of a campus forest-walking program on undergraduate and graduate students’ physical and psychological health. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(7), 728.

  2. Bornioli, A., Parkhurst, G., & Morgan, P. L. (2018). The psychological wellbeing benefits of place engagement during walking in urban environments: A qualitative photo-elicitation study. Health & place, 53, 228-236

  3. Edwards, M. K., & Loprinzi, P. D. (2018). Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults. Health promotion perspectives, 8(3), 171.

  4. Kelly, P., Murphy, M., & Mutrie, N. (2017). The health benefits of walking. Walking, 61–79. https://doi.org/10.1108/s2044-994120170000009004

  5. Park, B. J., Shin, C. S., Shin, W. S., Chung, C. Y., Lee, S. H., Kim, D. J., ... & Park, C. E. (2020). Effects of forest therapy on health promotion among middle-aged women: Focusing on physiological indicators. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(12), 4348.


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