The Benefits of Nature Walks for SeniorsMarch 24, 2023
A 30-minute walk daily, five days a week, covers the required moderate-intensity activity for seniors. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While walking, the simple act of movement brings about many benefits.
It can be made more meaningful—and mindful—when done within nature.
In Japan, they call it “forest bathing.” According to National Geographic, the term was coined in the 1980s to inspire the locals to reconnect with the country’s forested areas and relieve themselves of burnout from work. The practice was a hit. In the 1990s, shinrin-yoku, or “taking in the forest atmosphere,” was a Japanese way of mindfully destressing their minds.
Shinrin-yoku, or walking through nature, is not just limited to Japan. In fact, many people worldwide go to forests and gardens to relieve their stress. For many people, just sitting in a space surrounded by plants can quickly induce a feeling of peace and meditation and provide clarity of mind.
There is no need to head to a forest to experience the beauty of nature and the meditative act of walking through it. All you have to do is step inside your favorite parks or trails to experience the many benefits of nature walks.
How Nature Walks Benefits the Body
Movement helps us burn calories and keeps us from leading a sedentary lifestyle. It powers our cardiovascular system, strengthens the heart, and boosts our metabolism. This, in return, keeps us from feeling constantly tired and exhausted.
Breathe in a fresh dose of oxygen. Being surrounded by trees that are known producers of oxygen—and consequently absorb carbon dioxide—taking nature walks is a great way to refresh your lungs. Take the time to inhale and exhale and use this moment to strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Speed up health recovery. One study performed in a hospital in Pennsylvania concludes that people who have a view of nature from their room windows healed from surgery faster than those who could only see walls. This can help with your mental health too!
Reduce your blood pressure. Spending 30 minutes in the park and relaxing inside the tree-filled areas can help you feel better inside and out.
Help avoid cancer. One study reveals that those who took two long walks in nature on two consecutive days gained a 50% increase in their cancer-fighting cells and increased the activity of these cells by 56%.
Reduce stress. Researchers also conclude that nature walks lower the level of cortisol, known as the stress hormone. This may be linked to phytoncides, compounds released by plants and trees which produce therapeutic benefits similar to aromatherapy. Phytoncides have been studied to improve our blood composition, boosting our immune system.
How Nature Walks Benefits the Mind
Nature walks are not just for your body; they can also help improve your cognitive ability. Taking a walk in a garden, even for less than one hour, increases memory performance, reduces anxiety, and produces more positive feelings. People taking these walks have more focus, profound empathy for other humans and creatures in nature, and a true appreciation of their surroundings.
Nature also gives us a break from our fast-paced daily lives. It allows a necessary pause that keeps your mind from being drained or fatigued. When you are outdoors, your mind is distracted from the chores at home. Instead, you get to quietly observe the warm glow of the sun and the movement of wildlife around you. Take this time to admire the beauty of nature and take in its many gifts.
It is also the best place to meditate. As you take the time to pace your steps and breath, you experience mental clarity, allowing you to return to your regular life fully rejuvenated.
Looking for creative ideas? Go to nature and feel inspired. Pay attention to the sky’s colors, the clouds’ shapes, and the many patterns on flower petals. This way, you can come home with new inspiration for your art.
How to Begin Your Nature Walk
- Find the right place for you. Research the local parks and terrains that can fit your preferences. Consider the distance and elevation, and ensure the path is comfortable.
- Start early in the day. Set your alarm at six or seven a.m., and head out at sunrise. Not only is the sun a great mood booster, but walking in the morning gives you the all-essential Vitamin D that assists in circulating Calcium around your body.
Tip: If you are a late riser, walking in the late afternoon is good, too. Head out as the day slows down and admire the sunset surrounded by the trees. It is imperative to walk within well-lit areas to avoid slips, trips, and falls. If you have a walker, use it to accompany you and ensure each step is safe and secure.
- Find a good spot where you can stay and admire the surroundings. While walking helps keep your body moving, you’d also want to rest for a while, especially if you have been walking for quite some time. Having a favorite spot will help you admire more of nature’s details—a bunch of mushrooms, a new sprout of flowers, a cocoon hanging from a twig. If you’d like, you can take pictures to show to your family and friends.
- Wear the right clothes. Make sure that you wear closed rubber shoes with good traction instead of regular flip-flops or sandals. Carry your ID with your emergency information, and take your phone. It’s also good to tell people around you where you are going.
- Take nature walks with loved ones! The best way to enjoy walks in nature is to have your friends and family with you. Meditate together, admire the sights, eat, and come home wholly fulfilled.
The Oaks at Denville takes pride in its award-winning senior wellness program, LivWell, which encourages seniors to achieve whole-person wellness. Surrounded by nature and a wonderful community, the Oaks is the place to spend your retirement years. Learn more about us! Call us at 1-973-586-6000 today.