“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” ― Sylvia Plath
We all know that spending time outside is good for us and our bodies, but sometimes we forget just how important it is to maintain proper physical and mental health. And because of our hectic lives and our 9 to 5 jobs, a lot of us think that it’s too much of a hassle to find time to idly prance around a forest. However, according to new studies it’s a really good idea to spend at least an hour per day outside of your living room, as it can really improve your overall health. In this article, I want to focus on just some of the benefits that spending extended amounts of time in nature can have for your body and your psyche.
7 Amazing Health Benefits of Walking in the Woods
1. Fighting Depression
A recent study has discovered that people who live near forested areas (areas with a higher number of trees) have significantly better mental health and suffer less from anxiety and depression. There’s definitely something very calming and serene about being in the vicinity of trees, so if you suffer from depression it might be a good idea to take a stroll through a forest every now and then.
2. Lower Risk of Cancer
Now this one may surprise you – a team of researchers in Japan has recently come up with some pretty convincing evidence that spending time in the woods can actually boost your body’s natural cancer-fighting mechanism. You see, your body is actually full of so-called NK (natural killer) cells whose only purpose is to protect your body against dormant cancer cells. The research ultimately showed that a team of individuals, after spending some time in a forest lodge, the level of these cells in the test subjects’ bloodstream jumped significantly.
3. Brain Activity
Certain studies indicate that children that spend more time in a forested area develop better cognitive skills and superior manual dexterity than those who grow up in urban environments. Because of this, forest kindergartens are becoming more and more popular in Europe, especially Germany, as it’s a really simple way to kickstart a child’s cognitive development.
4. Lower Blood Pressure
If you suffer from diabetes and/or high blood pressure, one of the best things you can do for your condition is to take a stroll through the woods once every few days. Just an hour or two spent hiking through a forest can do wonders for your blood pressure, as well as balance out your blood sugar, according to a recent Japanese study.
5. Good for Obesity
This is pretty much a given already, but it’s still worth mentioning. Nearly 30% of the world’s population is now overweight, and the numbers are only getting worse. However, taking a short hike through the woods is one of the best and healthiest cardio exercises you can do, primarily because you’re breathing fresh forest air instead of whatever the air conditioners spews out at your local gym. If you really want to get serious about it, try fending for yourself a few days in the woods, as this is sure to help you with your obesity (just kidding.)
6. Reduced Stress
A forest environment can have a really calming effect on your nervous system, which is why nearly all mental institutions are located on the brink of a forested area. Trees are also very good at absorbing noise, which means that the noise floor, something that affects your psyche on a subconscious level, is much lower than in the city. It’s a good idea to give your mind and your ears a break from your hectic way of life every once in a while, and there’s no better way than treating it to a nice, long walk through the woods.
7. Improved Sleep
Finally, certain studies have even proven that spending a night in the forest can do wonders for your messed up internal clock. As human beings, we’re rigged to rise and fall with the sun, and without all the distractions and artificial lights of an urban environment, it’s much easier to tap into this age-old instinct, and significantly improve the quality of your sleep by doing so.