Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nature Walks & Hikes for Better Mental & Physical Health

       The data that has been coming in from researchers all over the world is confirming the long-held belief that walking in nature is good for mental and physical health. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because when I began my quest for better health, this is one of the first things I was able to do to help improve my life.

       I had decided to break down all the research that has come in, as normal, that proves how incredible a simple walk on a nature trail or in a beautiful park can be for our health. I was going to cover the lowered anxiety scores, lowered blood pressure readings, lowered symptoms of depression, improved cardiovascular performance and greatly improved rumination scores. I decided against that. 

       Instead, I want to share some of the things I've seen/experienced on my walks, hikes and runs in nature. I'm going to put up a few pictures I've taken and post a one-minute video of a hike I did last Friday. If anyone wants the data, much of it can be found in Outdoor Exercise and Mental Illnesses1 or in the links at the bottom of the page. Science and data are always wonderful motivators for me, but so is the beauty found in Nature. I was tempted to put up pictures of grand wildernesses that I've taken. Instead, I've gone with pictures of ordinary things, in ordinary places, to demonstrate the philosophy that I believe in: What I look at isn't nearly as important as what I decide to see. I hope the silly titles help illustrate that point.

       First things first, I want to be clear. In the beginning, I wasn't able to walk for very long or for very far, but I kept at it. I've mentioned before that the last time I came home from a mental ward I wasn't able to walk for more than five minutes due to my obesity and the swelling in my feet from all the medications I was having to take. As you can probably tell from the first picture, I wasn't walking far, and I wasn't running anywhere (I was actually over thirty pounds heavier than this the last time I came home from a mental ward). However, small steps are infinitely better than no steps! Those humble beginnings, those small first steps, helped lead me to this life that I love. Going for outdoor walks was/is a key ingredient in my wellness plan.

       Below is the video from last week's hike and a few pictures I've taken while walking, hiking and running in nature. I hope you enjoy them and that they may inspire someone to step out their front door and go for a walk. It could be the small step in the right direction that changes someone's life. We never know unless we try.















City Park

       Obviously, I am not a photographer and all of those pictures were taken in public parks and nature trails around our house or around whatever little vacation spot my family and I may have been at (I always look up public parks and nature trails when we travel). The point is, nature is everywhere. Even in the city, it's never far away. People don't have to take a trip to Alaska, the Outback or the Serenghetti to go for a walk in nature and improve their health. 

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       As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click this link and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a fantastic resource and is staffed by wonderful people.
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