Walking in the Woods

It’s no surprise that the stress inducing holiday season is coming quickly. Juggling parties, more clients, gifts, and travel takes its toll on even the most levelheaded. Unmanaged, this stress can lead to serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. According to Aaron Michelfelder, M.D. professor of family medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, a short walk at the end of a busy day can be all your body needs to wind down and get a handle on stress. “When we get to nature, our health improves,” says Michelfelder. “Our stress hormones rise all day long in our bloodstream and taking even a few moments while walking to reconnect with our inner thoughts and to check in with our body will lower those damaging stress hormones.” Research from Japan shows a walk in nature may play a role in fighting cancer too. When people breathe in phytoncides, a chemical emitted by plants, there is an increase in the level of natural killer cells, which make up a key component of the immune system’s response to cancer. Michelfelder says to throw in some yoga and breathing exercises for added calming.

Whether you’re walking in a winter wonderland living out the classic carol or through a leaf-strewn path in the forest, the activity is improving your wellbeing. How often do you take time for a walk in the park?