Fresh air, sunshine, new sights, new sounds, new smells await anyone out for a walk. Connecting with nature is one of the great benefits of walking outdoors. You can’t see a bird in the sky or a garden bed bursting with flowers when you’re on a treadmill. But when you walk outdoors, your senses become engaged. You notice changes in the landscape and may even take an interest in learning the names of plants that catch your eye.
Becoming immersed in your local environment is what makes walking outdoors such a pleasure. Of course, walking is good exercise too. The fact that walking is enjoyable makes it easier to keep doing it. And that’s key to maintaining a regular exercise routine.
For more reasons to step outside and go for a walk, here are five health benefits of walking outdoors.
5 health benefits of walking outdoors
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of walking outdoors. Here are just a few reasons to put on your walking shoes and head out the door.
1. Elevate your mood: Walking benefits your mood by stimulating your body to produce endorphins — the brain’s feel-good chemicals. It’s why you feel better after exercising (or sex, for that matter). In addition to feelings of pleasure, endorphins help relieve pain — welcome news for aching joints and muscles.
Walking outdoors also puts you in direct contact with sunlight. Exposure to sunlight increases levels of serotonin, the body’s natural mood stabilizer. Serotonin helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Sunlight also increases your vitamin D intake, another mood enhancer.
2. Reduce your risk of chronic diseases: Regular walkers have fewer heart attacks and strokes, lower blood pressure and higher levels of HDL (healthy cholesterol) than non-exercisers. In fact, walking for just 30 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by 19%. You can reduce your risk even more by taking longer walks once or twice a week. Walking can also lower the risk of many cancers and strengthen the immune system.
3. Maintain a healthy weight: Walking is one of the best exercises for losing weight, especially those unwanted pounds around your middle. Regular walking helps reduce belly fat by telling your muscles to release a fat-burning hormone called irisin. This exercise-induced hormone transforms calorie-storing white fat cells into brown fat cells, which continue to burn energy after you finish exercising. Irisin also inhibits the formation of fatty tissue. This one-two punch makes weight loss easier.
4. Boost your brain power: Walking outdoors has been shown to increase creativity. A Stanford University study compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants did better while walking, particularly while walking outdoors. According to the study, “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”
In another study, brain scans of people who walked briskly for one hour three times a week showed the decision-making areas of their brains worked more efficiently than people who attended education seminars instead.
And another study found that brisk walking increases the size of the hippocampus — the area of the brain responsible for memory formation — among older adults.
5. Live a longer life: Walking has wide-ranging health benefits, including improvements in blood pressure, resting heart rate, BMI, blood cholesterol, VO2 Max, and depression scores. But you don’t have to walk five miles (or 10,000 steps) a day to improve your health and longevity. A 2019 Harvard study found that women in their 70s who managed as few as 4,400 steps a day reduced their risk of premature death by about 40%. The study also found that the health benefits of daily walking tend to level off around the 7,500-step mark. In other words, you don’t have to walk all day to extend your life span.
A community designed for walking outdoors.
At Canterbury Court, residents can step outside and walk paths that wind past garden beds, mature trees and lush landscapes. It’s a great place to walk your dog or go for a stroll with friends.When the weather’s not cooperating, our Wellness Center offers more ways to stay fit and healthy, including yoga, tai chi, Zumba, balance, and pool walking classes. To learn how we can support your health and well-being, contact us. It’s the first step to a healthier, happier lifestyle.