We’ve all heard about how playing outside can help kids. What if there were benefits of nature walks and being outdoors for grown-ups as well? It turns out there are some pretty astounding benefits of nature walks for adults too! Some of them have to do with your physical health, but many have to do with your mental health as well.
We started doing something special to commemorate all our nature walks and hikes. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first let’s look at some of the amazing benefits of nature walks!
What is a Nature Walk?
According to dictionary.com, a nature walk is defined as ” a walk on a nature trail, especially with an experienced guide.” They define a nature trail as “a path through a forest, wildlife preserve, or the like, especially one designed to provide opportunities for observing and learning about the flora and fauna.”
In other words: a nature walk is what I think of as “going on a hike” or a “walk in the park.”
Why is Walking in Nature Good for You?
According to mayo clinic, regular brisk walking can have all kinds of benefits including:
- Helping you maintain a healthy weight
- Improve your heart health
- Increase your bone strength
- Give you more energy
- Boost your memory and mood
- Strengthen your immune system
- Reduce stress and tension
When you go on nature walks, you not only get benefits of regular walking exercise, you get added benefits from being out in nature such as:
- lowering your cortisol levels (stress hormone)
- Vitamin D boost, which can help combat depression, and strengthen the immune system.
- Better vision
- Increased brain function, mental clarity, and improved concentration
What are 3 Benefits of Going Outside?
There are many benefits of simply going outside. These include:
- Lessening anxiety
- Better sleep
- Improved focus.
Does Nature Give you Energy?
According to Richard Ryan at the University of Rochester, it does! People that spend as little as 20 minutes a day in nature have a better sense of well-being and vitality. They are also more resistant to physical illness.
Knowing the benefits of nature walks will not do any good if we don’t know exactly what a nature walk is. I can walk on a treadmill at the gym, and I can get the benefits of walking, but there are more benefits when you pair them with being outside. Similarly, I can go outside in a city, which feels different than when I walk in the park or down a forest trail.
10+ Benefits of Nature Walks
Going on nature walks have some pretty amazing benefits – from helping your brain to function better, making your body feel better physically and even helping you to be happier and more content in your life. It’s one of the things I mention in my course, Questing for Contentment to help you live a happier and more content life. Let’s take a deeper look at 10+ of the benefits of nature walks!
1. Fresh Air Helps Your Brain Function Better
Yes, you read that right – one pretty amazing benefit of nature walks is that it helps our brains to function better. The fresh air outside increases oxygen to the brain, which it needs to function grow and heal. The brain actually uses three times as much oxygen as our muscles.
2. Walking in Nature May Decrease Anxiety and Depression
Standford University did a very interesting study in 2015 that showed links between being out in nature and decreased risk of anxiety and depression. What’s unique about this study is that both sets of participants went for a walk on a regular basis – one group in an urban area and another in a natural area. Then researchers scanned their brains.
In the group that went for a walk in an urban area, the activity in the parts of their brain that are responsible for “rumination” (dwelling on negative thoughts) was unchanged. But it was decreased in the group that went for a walk in a natural setting! Pretty cool!
3. Your Brain Gets a Reboot
You know how rebooting your PC fixes a lot of issues? Rebooting your brain will too. One huge benefit of nature walks is that it actually reboots your brain and refreshes your mental energy. When you take a moment to slow down and take in the natural world around you, it gives you a closer sense of connection to something bigger (and to God). Unsurprisingly, this helps to stabilize your mood, helps you feel refreshed, and reduces stress.
4. It Helps You Look (and Feel) Younger
Walking outside has pretty amazing benefits for our bodies as well, especially as we age. Benefits of nature walks for mature adults also include:
- lowering blood pressure
- preventing memory loss
- strengthening bones
- decreasing the risk of lung cancer
- makes your heart stronger
- Increases the production of collagen for your skin, making you look younger
5. Nature Walks Improve Focus, Concentration, and Creativity
My experience with my youngest son in the opening paragraph makes this benefit of nature walks hit home for me. Nature walks not only improve concentration and focus in children but also in adults. There is also evidence that walking outside improves your creativity as well. What’s really awesome – you only need about 25 minutes of walking outside in a natural area to get the benefits!
6. Helps You Feel Better Physically
There are many emotional benefits to increased physical activity and walking in nature is just one of those examples. But what about physically? When your body feels better, you are going to feel better mentally as well. Walking can help you feel better physically by:
- Improving your balance
- Increasing endurance and cardiovascular fitness
- Stronger muscles
- More lung capacity
7. Makes Your Thoughts More Positive and Helps You Feel Happier
There are 4 main brain chemicals that are associated with happiness. (This is a fairly common way that scientists measure happiness when they are doing brain scans.) One of the benefits of going on a nature walk is that just going outside and being exposed to sunlight increases the production of serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps to regulate your mood, and also helps with sleep, digestion, memory, and your ability to learn. (Which explains some of the other benefits of nature walks.)
But there’s more: When you pair walking with being outside, you get an increase in the other brain chemicals as well that are associated with exercise. Regular physical exercise has many mental health benefits, including boosting your endorphins and dopamine levels. What does that mean in plain English? Endorphins are your body’s natural pain relievers so your body feels better physically. Dopamine is the brain chemical that’s part of the brain’s rewards system. It’s linked to pleasurable sensations along with learning and memory. So when you go for a nature walk, it stimulates the production of 3 major brain chemicals that are linked to happiness. This makes your thoughts more positive as well.
8. Nature Walks Can Be A Social Activity
Sometimes it can be relaxing to go for a nature walk alone. Sometimes you need that alone time to unwind and let your brain process everything that’s on your mind. But going for a nature walk can be a social activity as well if you go with your friend, your family, or even your dog. This means that you can relax and get all the other benefits of nature walks as well as spend quality time with those that you love.
Several years ago, my husband started what he calls “yard walks” after he gets home because it helps him to unwind. When I go with him, it provides us a great time to talk and spend quality time with one another.
- Related: Little Things that Matter: Heartfelt Letter to My Husband
- Dear Husband, Thank You for Choosing Me
- The Importance of Appreciation in Marriage
9. More Generous and More Cooperative
This benefit of nature walks was rather surprising to me, but studies have shown that time spent outside may make you feel more generous. Specifically, the feeling of being in awe – where you feel like a small part of a larger whole prompts feelings of generosity. You might feel this way when you look at a fantastic view from a mountain top or gaze up at the stars.
Going for a nature walk can also make you more cooperative with other people. It’s part of the attention reset and stress reduction. Another study found suggestions that when you are exposed to nature you also become more cooperative with others. If I am less stressed and I have experienced the ” brain reboot,” that going for a nature walk gives me, I’m much more likely to be patient with others and more cooperative. (There are many benefits to being patient too!)
10. Helps You Sleep
We all know that we need sleep. What adult doesn’t need more sleep? But sometimes actually sleeping is hard because our minds are wired and when we lay our heads down on our pillows at night our brains kick into overdrive. Remember we talked about that brain reboot above? Going for a nature walk can help you sleep by helping your mind wind down as well as burning off some physical energy.
BONUS: You Might Lose Weight and Become More Physically Fit!
This is a nice side effect of regular nature walks – you might lose weight and become more physically fit. Walking itself is a great form of exercise and requires no special equipment. It’s one of the easiest forms of exercise to fit into a busy schedule.
How Do I Find Nature Walks Near Me?
Even though the dictionary definition of nature walks talks about having an experienced guide, I have never found the need for one. Most of the forested nature trails or hikes around my area may have a guide at the visitor center if it’s a state park. That can be interesting. But you don’t have to go that far to find a nature walk. It can be as close as your local park.
I did a simple Google search for “Trails near me” and I got results from local parks as well as nature trails. If you’d like some websites dedicated to helping you find nature walks near you, check out:
The Last Thing You Need to Know About the Benefits of Nature Walks
Nature walks have a lot of surprising benefits. We know that going outside helps kids, but it has a lot of benefits for adults as well. It’s the perfect way to boost your mood, get some sun and exercise, as well as give your brain a reboot and increase your concentration, mental clarity, and creativity. It can also be a social activity giving you time to boost your emotional connection to those that you love. We go for nature walks in the form of hikes as a family. It’s a great day trip experience.
When my youngest son was smaller, he used to always fall down and scrap his knee or fall in a creek. I learned to be sure to bring bandaids and that dry socks/change of clothes in the vehicle were not a bad idea either. Both boys loved finding hiking sticks along the way. They loved it so much that we eventually bought them real hiking sticks. When we go to a state park or a national park, my husband and I have started buying walking stick medallions to commemorate the adventure. His has the state parks and mine has the national parks. It’s our hope that it will give our kids two heirlooms to treasure and remember all our adventures by.
Why do you love nature walks or what questions do you have? Leave me a comment below!