Remember when our mothers used to throw us out of the house commanding, “Go out and play!”: we spent the day climbing trees, making mud pies and inventing games.” Well, they were right all along. We grew strong, healthy and resilient.
Scientific research shows that you need to get back outside. Walking in nature may benefit not only your heart and lungs, but also your brain.
Studies back what humans once knew knew instinctively. Norman Doidge, MD, notes in his fascinating bestseller, The Brain that Changes Itself, that nature and staying active help the brain stave off dementia, ward off depression and heal from injury.
Physical exercise and learning work in complementary ways: the first to make new stem cells, the second to prolong their survival.
Not only does physical activity create new neurons, but exercise also strengthens the heart and blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain helping you feel mentally alert.
Humans were not designed to live in a world of cement, artificial screens and sounds.
“This artificiality is draining our brains and damaging our health,” nature writer Professor David Gessner explains, “some scientists would say technology is slowly ruining our lives.
One US study by Harvard and Stanford researchers shows how workplace related stress can significantly reduce life expectancy. The link between low stress and longevity is well established.
The Swiss, the second most active people in Europe after the Swedish, have one of world’s longest life expectancy. Forty-four percent of Swiss exercise several times a week and 92% are motivated to move by getting in contact with nature.
Not everyone, like the Swiss, enjoy the privilege of living in a mountainous and lake regions. Nor can everyone be located on coastal sea areas.
But even the American Midwest offers accessibility to nature. Minnesota - land of 10,000 lakes - offers miles of paved trails. Minneapolis-St Paul is known as one of the nations best metropolitan areas for biking/hiking. Escape to Wisconsin lives up to it’s motto as being a great get away for its lakes and forests.
The Chicago Park District owns more than 8,800 acres of green space, making it the largest municipal park manager in the nation.
Anyone living in the Cleveland area should contact my brother, who could have 2nd career as tour guide. He can find you a beautiful walking, hiking and running areas within a 20 mile radius of the city and give you directions how to get there.
National and state parks and nature reserves abound across America. Even smaller communities boast of green space, like Sterling, Illinois where I grew up, which has 20 different parks, including a favorite Sinnissippi.
Unfortunately not all of us have the ability to walk. If that is no longer an option, ask your loved one to take you to a park where you can sit on a bench and benefit from listening to the wind in trees, watching the birds and feeling the sunshine on your face.
Those of us who can - must keep moving. My mom maintains her routine by taking steps for friends who no longer can. My dad keeps trudging along with his walker by setting daily goals to walk to the corner. And through diligent practice, I learned to regain balance, step forward without stumbling and swing my immobile left arm again after brain injury.
What’s holding you back? Get outside and shake that booty!
Gail and I are camping at a TX State Park as I read your words about nature! We love the hikes in nature and hike all day long. Our souls need the peace and our hearts are full taking in the beautiful scenery. Camping in our little camper is what has kept us sane this year as I work from home due to Covid and never get out otherwise.
Oh Maria, I love the photos you share of your camper trips and makes me want me run right out and buy one. The only problem is my aching back. How do you sleep in campers? Can you find mattresses/beds that accommodate bad backs?
YES Pat! We have twin beds with the regular mattress then we added a 4″ memory foam mattress topper. Very comfortable. Gail and I both have bad backs; she’s had surgery and I need surgery. But, ours hasn’t been broken like yours. I’m sure you could pad any bed with enough to make it comfortable. Camping in Switzerland would be amazing I’m sure! Love you!
Sounds encouraging to know you sleep comfortable in a camper even with bad backs. You are sure making it sound enticing and you are right camping in Switzerland would be amazing. Love you, too.
I have discovered a local gem – Rock Cut State Park, that for some reason I had previously overlooked for my walks. This has become my favorite pastime as I avoid crowds. As much as I love music, I never wear headphones while walking, so I can hear all the sounds of nature around me. I think back to growing up in Sterling when my sister and I would ride our bikes and spend half the day playing by a small creek. We can learn so much from nature if we take the time. Now I’m happy to know that it’s good for my brain too!
Jean, I am so glad you have found a special, quiet spot in nature to rejuvenate. I, too, am reminded of my youth when I am walking and remembering how lucky we were to grow up with siblings in a safe community with lots of places to explore in childhood.
Outstanding advice, Pat! Yes, my mom, too, was one who regularly told us kids to get outside and play. As we got older, we figured she just needed us somewhere so we wouldn’t be underfoot, but turns out, she was right. We did grow strong and healthy, we made friends, we played games, and we breathed fresh air and sunshine. Best of all, we now know it’s probably safer for everyone to be outside in this time of COVID, right?!
Yes our moms knew best even though we never realized it until years later. I am sure during this COVID crisis it is safer to be outside. Besides it is the only time we see anyone over here due to all the restrictions. When we are out walking the neighborhood, we are always stopping at a save distance to chat to neighbors who are out walking too.
I really love this great reading to improve the mental health with walking in nature. Such a great and helpful article for me, thank you for sharing.