A morning walk can boost your immune system, mood, vitality, cognitive abilities and general health. Let’s go!
When I really want to go for a morning walk, I picture a Cinderella-like experience. The sun is shining. The birds are singing and making me dresses. Everyone everywhere is friendly. The mice aren’t scary and disease-ridden. Instead they’re cute and wearing little vests. When I imagine my experience, everything is the best!
On the other hand, when I imagine going on a walk at a time when I’m not feeling it, I have very different images in my head. It’s a little more like Hansel and Gretel. I’m abandoned and lost in the dark, cold woods. I feel a distinct sense of dread. The sun isn’t shining. Birds are nowhere to be found. I imagine hating every minute of the experience in those stupid woods and I can’t wait to get past it all.
In reality, things are somewhere in the middle. I know what a walk is really like. When I’m prepared for the weather, it’s a pleasant experience made better by letting go of expectations and just enjoying my time. Sometimes, if I’d just get out there, my perception of the whole thing would switch from Hansel and Gretel’s dread to Cinderella’s excitement.
Here are a few reasons to believe your walk will make your life look a little more like the happiest parts of fairy tales:
It’s really great for you to get some direct sunlight. We know already that exposure to sunlight leads our skin to produce more vitamin D. However, there’s even more to it than that. Sunlight is thought to influence other mechanisms in your body that help cells of your immune system called t-cells, function at their best.
There are plenty of reasons to exercise. The list is long and comprehensive. It’s good for your heart, lungs, brain, muscles, mood, etc. So, I’ll just highlight one study that found that walking can combat heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States and second after cancer in Canada (Marigliano, Fahs and Stewart, 2016). It’s no secret that walking can help you live a long and healthy life.
It has also been shown that walking outside gives people an increased sense of vitality (Ryan et al, 2010). They even made sure verify that this was in addition to the positive impact of physical activity and socializing. There’s something special about walking outside, as opposed to exercising inside, that increases our sense of well-being.
Boosts Mood and Improves Cognition
It has been a long-standing belief that being outdoors improves mood and cognition. This belief was confirmed with research completed in 2012 by Berman et al. The simple act of being outdoors boosts our mood and increases brain function.
Make it a Group Effort
To maximize the benefits of going for a morning walk, do it in a team! It has been found that group nature walks are correlated with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being (Marselle, Irvine and Warber, 2014).
If you’re trying to incorporate a morning walk into your schedule and you’re just not feeling it, maybe it’s worthwhile remembering how your daily habits contribute to your happy fairy tale.
Berman, M. G., Kross, E., Krpan, K. M., Askren, M. K., Burson, A., Deldin, P. J., … & Jonides, J. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of affective disorders, 140(3), 300-305.
Marigliano, E., Fahs, P. S., & Ludden, C. (2016). Walking for Heart Health: A Study of Adult Women in Rural New York. Creative Nursing, 22(4), 268-275.
Marselle, M. R., Irvine, K. N., & Warber, S. L. (2014). Examining group walks in nature and multiple aspects of well-being: A large-scale study. Ecopsychology, 6(3), 134-147.
Phan, T. X., Jaruga, B., Pingle, S. C., Bandyopadhyay, B. C., & Ahern, G. P. (2016). Intrinsic Photosensitivity Enhances Motility of T Lymphocytes. Scientific Reports, 6.
Ryan, R. M., Weinstein, N., Bernstein, J., Brown, K. W., Mistretta, L., & Gagne, M. (2010). Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30(2), 159-168.