[fitness friday] Why YOU Should Consider a Walk in the Woods to Improve Your Health

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written by john c ashworth, ma

This is the time of year when people flood to the gym.  All of them with the intention to “stick with it this time.”

How’s that been working for you?

For a select few, the path to long-term health, weight loss and a full commitment to sticking with it and making sure to get to the gym each week is a reality.  For the rest of you, well…I have an idea…

Don’t get me wrong, the gym is necessary.  Especially if you plan to implement the required strength and conditioning program that will ensure long-term function, health, and strong bones and joints to hold you up over the years.  You really do need to find a way to make it in to the gym, or build a space of your own that is devoted to your long-term survival as a bohemian athlete.  A space that is devoted to building strength.

Here is what you also need to do…

Get outside for a walk or a run on a weekly basis.  And not just outside, but into the woods or a park or some place distant from the concrete jungle in which we live our daily lives.  This is vital for a few reasons that I will cover tonight on NBC 15 with Leigh Mills.  One reason is that it will help you stay motivated.  No doubt, the gym routine can become boring, stale, and full of distractions, especially this time of year.

More importantly, new research has shown that a walk or a run in the woods are better for you.  Here’s why…

  • Research at Stanford University revealed that being active in nature produced fewer negative thoughts and made it less likely for people to ruminate on those negative thoughts and emotions.  The group of individuals who exercised in this study in normal city surroundings experienced no such benefit.
  • MRI scans of the brains of the subjects in this Stanford Study also showed a reduction of the brain activity that is linked to mental illness.  Once again, the city exercisers did not experience this benefit.
  • Exercise outdoors may also boost your immune system.  It does this by creating an effect inside our body that is literally the exact opposite of the “fight or flight” stress response that we are all so familiar with in our daily lives.  This restful state was reported by survey respondents in a study at the University of Illinois.  This survey reported that feelings of safety and relaxation creates a hormonal environment inside the body that allows you to shuttle more resources toward your immune system instead of having to metabolize and fight off all of the stress hormones that accumulate during the “fight or flight” response.

I know that personally, I could not survive without my regular walks both with the dog and my family members.  They have a way of centering all of us, especially when we take the time to get away to a more remote location.  I hope this article might inspire you to do the same…

-John

PS For another article I wrote today about how Trail Running can Transform your body, Click Here.

 

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