Why Walking Outside is So Good for You
We are in the heart of winter right now. It is cold (in some places, crushingly so). It is boring and dreary, too. The days are short, the nights long and chilly.
By the time many of us finish work, it’s already dark outside. There’s just enough time for dinner, a hot shower, and an episode of Bridgerton before winding down for bed.
One easy way to stay sane and healthy this winter while getting your crucial fix of Vitamin D? Daily outdoor walks!
Yes, putting one foot in front of the other for just twenty minutes or so each day can have amazing benefits on your health, productivity, and mood during these cold-weather months.
Below are the surprising perks of doing a mid-day walk in the winter.
Walking outside supplies your body with natural Vitamin D
A daily, sunny dose of Vitamin D is something our bodies desperately need. Winter is a time when we -- in most US states -- hibernate. With more hours spent indoors and less access to natural sunlight, we’re deprived of this crucial vitamin. In turn, our immune systems and bones can weaken.
By walking outside, you’ll be soaking in the sunshine vitamin each day, which boasts all kinds of health benefits. Increased Vitamin D is proven to reduce depression, inhibit cancer cell growth, boost weight loss, strengthen bones, and help stave off diseases -- everything from multiple sclerosis to the common flu. In a stretch of time when our bodies can get run-down, daily intake of Vitamin D seriously does the body good.
Walking is really good for your joints and overall lifespan
Walking regularly is one of the best things you can do if you suffer from joint problems. According to this study, walking 3-miles a day can prevent and treat osteoarthritis of the knee and the mobility issues it causes.
Maybe more compelling, walking could add years to your life. Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that a brisk 20-minute walk each day might be all you need to dramatically cut your risk of early death. In fact, a long, brisk walk is just as good as a run when it comes to lowering your blood pressure.
And it makes you happy
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Elle Woods said that in Legally Blonde, and it’s true.
Being cooped up inside all a week is enough to drive you mad. Walking outdoors is a great and easy way to unplug from work and get those mid-day endorphins.
The science supports this, too. A 6-week study conducted by the University of Illinois showed that people who went on an outdoor walk for 20 minutes every day had a better mood, improved self-esteem, and a greater sense of well-being. The researchers went so far as to say several of minutes? Hours? powerwalking was comparable to a course of psychotherapy.
Long walks outside: where problems are solved, and great ideas are born
Stuck on a problem at work or school? Been staring at the screen for too long and no longer making progress? Now’s the time to do something that’s going to sound counterintuitive at first: Stop. Stop working on the problem.
Leave your phone at your desk, forget about the project, and go for a walk. Whether you realize it or not, your mind is always problem-solving. Incubating. Your subconscious is working through thousands of potential solutions without you doing a thing. And the rhythm of your feet, that natural pat-pat cadence, is stimulating and shaping your thoughts.
Unlike a high intensity workout, walking is a leisurely exercise, one that does not require all of your attention. This allows your mind to wander as you take a stroll around the neighborhood. This in-between space -- when you are somewhat occupied with something but free to let your brain wander -- is when some of the best creative ideas are born.
You’ll engage more meaningfully with the world around you
It’s chilly. It gets dark early. It’s challenging to see friends. We’re now entering month eleven of this global pandemic. It’s easier than ever to spend full, hermit-like days inside our homes, at our laptops, surrounded by screens.
Walking is a way to stay grounded, to see and appreciate the real world around us. To smell the crisp winter air and the scent of smoky firewood from our neighbors’ homes. It ignites our imaginations, engages our senses, and reminds us, frankly, that other human beings exist outside our Zoom calls. It reminds us that we’re part of a community and brighter days lie ahead.
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