It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know at a fundamental level that walking and spending time in Nature are good for you, and combining the two is even better. But I found these articles interesting because they not only go into the variety of benefits you receive, but also the science/mechanics of the how and why. Thanks to Raw For Beauty for the graphic and Natural Health 365 and Natural News for the information….
(by Ben Hirshberg for Natural News) Sometimes the best solutions are the most simple. This appears to be the case with walking, arguably the simplest form of exercise. Walking is gentle on the body and takes no special equipment to perform, making it also a very accessible way to exercise. There has been quite a bit of research done on the effectiveness of walking and the results are staggering.
Decreased pain and disability
Walking appears to make the body stronger and more resilient in addition to being therapeutic. When people suffering from knee arthritis walked for only three hours a week, their pain and disability went down by nearly half. Walking for only four hours per week decreased the risk of hip fracture in post-menopausal women by over 40 percent.
Walking and mental health
Though physical activity and mental health are not always put in the same breath, walking also appears to have a significant impact on our happiness levels. In one study, nearly a third of the depressed patients reported feeling better after only a small dose of walking. When that small dose was increased, the number of depressed patients who were feeling better jumped to about half. Similarly, walking has been shown to reduce anxiety in about half of all patients who implement it into their routine.
Decreased illness and disease
The risk of disease and illness also seems to be significantly cut down when walking is added to the picture. Some research has found that walking can decrease the risk of heart disease by as much as 50 percent. Older patients who started a walking routine were able to reduce their progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s by about half as well. In one study of patients at a high risk for diabetes, walking was combined with other lifestyle interventions and almost 60 percent of patients reduced the progression to frank diabetes.
Walking and lower mortality
All of these benefits point to a lower mortality rate as well. A Harvard alumni study followed graduates for a dozen years and found that people who walked had a 23 percent lower rate of death than those who did not walk. Cardiorespiratory fitness, something walking can influence, has also been pointed to as the best mortality predictor.
Though walking may never become a fitness fad, its benefits are undeniable. In fact, if a pill could produce effects similar to the statistics cited above, it would be the bestselling drug in the world. Until then the rest of us will be making strides naturally, one step at a time.
Walking benefits kidney disease:
This article by Jonathan Landsman talks about “forest walking/bathing,” a particular kind of walking with added benefits….
(from NaturalHealth365) There is strong scientific evidence coming out of Japan about the anti-cancer effects of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. In fact, according to Dr. Qing Li – one of the world’s foremost experts on shinrin-yoku, forest walking may prevent chronic illnesses like cancer; reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones.
Chronic stress slowly kills. Environmental toxins like car fumes and industrial wastes; processed foods and EMF pollution increase our cortisol levels and the risk for disease. Bottom line, most people in modern society are stressed out and need to relax – much more.
A natural way to quickly energize the human body
There’s simply no debate – forest bathing provides a natural environment of grass, trees and fresh air – which can literally bring you back to life. Thankfully, there is mounting scientific data to prove that being in contact with nature is good for us physically, emotionally and mentally.
Naturally, it is widely thought that leaving the noise and stress of everyday life and spending more time in nature is good for us. Researchers have now been putting this understanding to the test. Unfortunately, only until recently, the practice of walking in the woods was never really investigated using laboratory equipment.
Medical studies prove forest walking boost immunity
The studies which began in Japan sought to find the physiological impact of forest bathing. Dr. Li, an associate professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and current president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, has conducted experiments to test forest bathing on human health.
The studies found favorable effects on mood, stress level, and immune function. The scientists in Japan back up the work done by Boris Tokin, a Russian researcher, who discovered trees and other plants actually release chemicals called phytoncides. This chemical protects plants from harmful pathogens and can offer significant health benefits to humans.
How does forest walking reduce cancer risk?
The profile of Mood States test showed that forest bathing trips significantly increased vigor in test subjects – while decreasing anxiety, depression and anger. This factor alone was shown to decrease the risk of stress related diseases like heart disease and cancer.
The studies on immune system function showed an increase in the activity of natural killer (NK) cells – a component of the immune system in charge of preventing cancer. Wouldn’t it be nice if every (conventionally-trained) oncologist talked to their patients about this?
One of the best studies to date
In one particular study, subjects experienced a 3-day/2-night trip to three different Japanese forests. Prior to the forest visit, the same subjects participated in a city tourist visit – consisting of a 3-day/2-night trip to Nagoya city, which had very few trees.
The class of hotel and the lifestyle of the subjects during the stays in the hotels were the same for the city and forest trips. The walking courses in both trips were 2.5 km.
But, the city tourist visit did not increase their natural killer cell activity or the expression of selected intracellular perforin (more about this in a moment). These findings showed that forest bathing trips did increase natural killer cell activity, the number of NK cells and the levels of perforin.
You may be wondering – what is perforin? It’s actually a protein, known for breaking into cells which have been taken over by a virus or tuned into a cancerous cell and allowing toxic enzymes in. This process will destroy the cell from within. But, without this protein, the immune system can’t destroy rogue cells.
Forest air has a powerful anti-cancer effect
Dr Li attributes the increase in NK activity partly to breathing in air containing phytoncide – an essential oil from the wood – like α-pinene and limonene, which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds emitted from trees to protect them from rotting and insects.
By the way, phytoncides are natural preservatives and fungicides, classified as antimicrobial volatile organic compounds, and can also be used as essential oils in aromatherapy.
These phytoncides induce NK cell activity, which kill tumor cells by releasing anti-cancer proteins. In fact, it’s been shown that ‘forest bathers’ have increased this activity by 50%.
So, it makes sense, living in heavily forested areas is associated with a decreased risk of early mortality and cancer. For example, researchers compiled data from several major cities in Japan and found that populations that lived in areas with more trees had a decreased rate of several different types of cancer.
Forest walking offers immediate results
Walking in a forest or park will strengthen your white blood cells, lowers heart rate, reduce blood pressure and decrease the stress hormone – cortisol.
By breathing in the aroma of the plants – we are saturating our body with chemicals known for their ability to prevent infections, viruses and cancer. So, remember, the next time you’re in the forest – hug a tree and take a deep breath, because it may just save your life.
About the author: Jonathan Landsman is the host of NaturalHealth365.com, the NaturalNews Talk Hour – a free, weekly health show and the NaturalNews Inner Circle – a monthly subscription to the brightest minds in natural health and healing.
Want even more on walking? Check out this in-depth article by Dr. Mercola that even includes a video about the proper way to walk:
And these articles about how walking benefits creative thinking, cuts your risk of death by up to 50%, increases blood flow to the brain and more:
Related Self-help Health post:
So where’s your favorite place to walk? One of my best walks ever happened with a friend while visiting one of the giant redwood parks in California. Truly a magical, healing experience on all levels!
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Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.