I love walking in the woods, hiking with friends, family, or by myself. For years, my now teenagers have spent summers in the woods at camp for weeks at a time, and later in the Adirondacks with dear friends, hiking and maintaining the trails they love so much. This year, my oldest son, along with two best friends, will hike a 130+ mile trail in the Adirondacks.
There’s no doubt that a walk in the woods makes you feel good. It might be the fresh air, the sunshine filtering through the trees, or maybe the majestic glimpses of nature. Then again, it could be the fact that you’re getting away from it all, the exercise, or just the silence. Science backs up those good feelings and confirms that walking in the woods really is good for you! Here’s how:
Walking In the Woods Fights Depression
Science has proven that getting out in nature prevents depression. A walk through the trees will help clear your mind and shift your focus. An oasis of trees in an urban jungle or your favorite hiking trail work together to allow you to establish a sense of belonging to the greater world around you. Of course, getting away from all the stress and drama in our immediate world is always good!
Trees Save Lives
A recent study in Environmental Pollution (2014) found that trees prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone. That was related to 17.5 million tonnes (19.14 tons) of air pollution removed by trees and forests, which physically intercept particulate matter and absorb gasses through their leaves. You aren’t imagining things when it feels like you can breathe easier walking in the woods – the air really is better there!
Walking in a forest setting is also incredibly good for improving heart health. A Japanese study found that walking in a forest environment rather than an urban setting with trees promotes lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure. By reducing stress hormones, lowering both pulse rate and blood pressure, you’ll be improving your heart function.
Better than any supplement you could find on store shelves, immersing yourself in the forest is the ultimate immune system booster. A breath of forest air is a breath of phytoncides, which are airborne chemicals plants give off to protect themselves from insects. These chemicals pack a killer punch, with both antibacterial and antifungal properties – when we breathe in phytoncides, our bodies respond by producing more NK (natural killer) cells. These special white blood cells are our natural fighters killing off everything from the flu to cancer!
So the next time someone says that a walk would do you good, head for the trees. It’s good for your mind, body, and soul!