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Take a Hike

Take a Hike

The Mental Health Rewards of Green Exercise
2 minutes read


May 1, 2024

Shinrin-yoku or “forest-bathing” is a form of self-care, free to anyone with time to spend and access to trees. And as simple as it sounds, the fringe benefits are amazing.

But before we consider the health impacts of nature walks, it’s worth noting that just the act of walking itself could help extend your lifespan.

Woman walking in on a path in the forest toward light.
Forest bathing and walking can extend lifespan.

A study published in 2020 tracked the steps of 4,840 adults for about a week, and then tracked deaths amongst the group over the ensuing decade. Researchers found a staggering difference in mortality rates between those who average 2,000 steps per day versus those who averaged 8,000+ steps per day – regardless of walking pace and adjusted for factors like sex, race and underlying health conditions:

Mortality rate vs. Steps per day, adapted from Saint-Maurice et al., 2020, the more we walk the lower our mortality rate.

On top of this, organizations like ParkRx America are shining a light on evidence of the health benefits of nature walks – and pushing doctors to write simple “nature prescriptions” in order to:

  • Provide defense against anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Improve sleep
  • Decrease risk of childhood obesity
  • Reduce odds of type 2 diabetes
  • Regulate blood pressure
  • Improve cardiovascular health

When time is tight, the good news is that a 2010 study found that it took as little as five minutes of “green exercise” per day to boost your mood and reap mental health rewards. So use this as an excuse to get outside and take a hike – and if there are trees nearby, be sure to look out for mushrooms too! All you have to do is look down …

Treat yourself to some shinrin-yoku this week – no prescription needed!


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