We all know that exercise can improve our mood and our health. That is why most of us go to a particular gym or sign up for a class like Pilates, Spinning, Box fit, you name it. Mine is swimming, I love to disconnect from everything and spend an hour swimming non-stop to quiet my mind. Yes, 90 times out of a 100 I do it more for my mental health that for my physical health.
I like the gym, and going is a great way to recharge the batteries especially if your job is to do something for a few hours in front of a computer. But since I started running a few years ago, I discovered the joys of just walking/jogging/running outdoors or even better in nature.
For me, there is no comparison between what you get when running on the treadmill and doing the same thing outdoors. You simply get more out of that session. It is starting to become popular to enjoy the benefits of being in contact with nature and in countries like Japan, they organize outings for people to just walk and connect with nature. They call it ecotherapy or forest walking.
The truth is that we need contact with nature, the sea, trees and this kind of landscapes to disconnect from the city life. I am a city girl by definition, but even I need to recharge my batteries from time to time. Since I live in Dublin, maybe even more since ‘nature’ and ‘the sea’ are really close to the city center.
After being on these outings people affirm to feel more positive, relaxed, grounded and there is a general feeling of positivity among those who do it on a regular basis. Not to mention the walk in itself is a good exercise!
One group in the UK that believes in the power of combining nature with mental health is the Green Gym movement. They focus on improving the environment while connecting with nature.
Two hospitals in Dublin, St John of God Hospital and St Patrick’s University Hospital have already introduced therapeutic gardens or green spaces as part of their services.
Another project worth mentioning in Ireland is the Woodlands for Health project in Co Wicklow as they offer 12 weekly walks in nature led by guides. During these three-hour walk, members talk and learn relaxation techniques.
So if after this, you are still wondering why you should get out and walk for a couple of hours check these alternative reasons to start walking:
You get to enjoy the weather
I know that in Ireland you may not get to enjoy a good sunny day very often, but even on a crispy cold morning, I find it relaxing to feel the cold air while walking for an hour. When you go back to work, or home you feel more relaxed and focused. And you get to experience whatever season is happening in that moment, instead of just living indoors all the time. One of the things that I did more when working in corporate environments was to really adhere to my daily lunch walks and it works like a charm. At least you get to see the sun, especially in the winter here in Dublin where we may start at 9 (night time) and finish at 5 or 6 (night time) so if you are not careful you may end up living like vampires for a good few months!
This is the biggest advantage and anybody can do it as long as you have some comfy shoes.
It’s good for your health
It lowers your sugar levels, improves the pain in your pack (many times this is psychosomatic due to stress and walking does help with this), it helps to reduce mental fatigue and will improve your memory. When you walk for an hour of more, at some point your worries just seem to melt away. You will also see that your bones will become stronger, and this is because people who walk a lot have bigger bone density since the body needs to adapt to the exercise of these long walks.
Walking also helps if you are stuck with an idea or stressed after studying too much. The act of walking and just performing a completely different activity will help to boost your creativity and often times you will find a solution to the problem before you know it.
So overall, it will help to improve your fitness levels and to lose weight if that is your goal. Many people use Fitbit or the application ‘Moves’ on the phone to track how much they have walked. I use Run Keeper as I like to hear the notifications on how much I have walked and my pace. But nowadays there is an app or a gadget for everybody.
The ‘moving forward’ feeling
Many times in life we are faced with difficult situations or challenges. I find it very useful to take a walk while I think about it. There is something about the fact that you are on the move, instead of sitting down while thinking about a problem that helps to solve them faster.
Even if in our minds we feel stuck with a problem, our bodies are in the middle of moving forward and it does affect the way we see things in a more positive way.
You can explore new places
I like to cycle quite a lot since I get to places really fast but when I walk I like to see, to discover, to explore and to really take in the surroundings. You get to notice more things, people, shops, the area in general. It is not a bad idea to find different routes as this will make the whole experience way more interesting.
You also get to discover new cool places, bars or cafes that you would have never found otherwise. For me it is great to just walk in nature and Ireland is particularly amazing for this. Just check the picture below…..😍☘️ of Connemara National Park.
You get some Vitamin D
In Spain, this would have never crossed my mind since you get vitamin D all year long, but since I live in Dublin, this is a point that I have to make. We get the sun sometimes in Dublin but this does not happen very often so you have to make a point of getting out there and getting a bit of sun whenever you get the chance.
You discover new music in an active way
A walk is a great excuse to listen to new music and discover it using it as a soundtrack to your walk. I find that music always makes the walk way more fun.
What are your reasons for walking outdoors?
Let’s continue the conversation! You can do that in the comments below and⬇️⬇️⬇️ on any of my social media!