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Healthy You

Doctors Orders: Take a Walk in the Woods!

Monday, July 12, 2021 11:17 AM

Pack up your water bottle, put on your gym shoes (or hiking shoes!), and head out the door for a walk in the woods this summer. Find a trail in your area, or your nearest forest preserve, and discover all of the sights, sounds, and smells of walking in nature. 

Walking in the Woods

Did you know that spending time in green spaces and specifically, forests, can help relieve stress and improve health? Our friends at the Chicago Botanic Garden fill us in on all of the benefits: 

Reduces mental fatigue: Spending time looking at plants, listening to birds, and focusing on the details of a forested area enables our brains to switch off for a while and take a much-needed break! Try this: During your lunch hour opt for a half-hour walk in the woods and come back to work or your daily to-dos refreshed. 

Aids in focus: With all of the things we busy our minds with, spending time in nature gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, allowing us to focus on soothing things. There have even been studies that say walking in the woods and being around nature can aid children with ADHD, too. 

Improves your mood and energy level: Natural beauty inspires feelings of awe, which gives the brain a boost. Studies have shown that being in a natural environment can improve mood and self-esteem. The presence of water – a lake, river, waterfall, or ocean, makes the positive effects of happiness even more noticeable.

Boosted immunity: Being out in nature can help lower blood pressure, diminish stress and some research has found that the whirl of phytoncides can help boost the immune system, helping to fight off flu, coughs, and colds.

Make sure to observe everything around you! The Chicago Botanic Garden advises: “During a self-guided walk, observe what is flowering each week because it changes so quickly. Right now, most people walking can see plants that are fruiting: trout lilies, wild geraniums, and some mayapples. Some plants that are flowering: wild chives and red columbines. Many of the different woodland tree species have full-leaved canopies."

“Many insects have also emerged from dormant states. Some native trees can host hundreds of insect species, which the birds will need to feed their young. If you take a moment to stop and listen, you will hear many different bird songs in the woods!”

So what are you waiting for? Get out and enjoy the fresh air, bird songs, and become aware of the seasonal changes.