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Walk It Off: Study Finds Nature Walks Lower Stress

Getting fresh air by taking a walk through the wilderness might be the cure-all for stress. A University of Michigan study found that walking, fresh air and social activity may help people relieve stress. Getting fresh air by taking a walk through the wilderness might be the cure-all for stress. A University of Michigan study found that walking, fresh air and social activity may help people relieve stress. 

The study's results
The researchers used 1,991 participants from the Walking for Health program in England, which organizes weekly walks for more than 70,000 walkers each year. The study authors noted they observed the most significant boost in people who dealt with an emotionally traumatic event, such as a death in the family, becoming unemployed, divorcing a spouse or a grave illness.

"We hear people say they feel better after a walk or going outside, but there haven't been many studies of this large size to support the conclusion that these behaviors actually improve your mental health and well-being," stated study author Dr. Sara Warber.

The study, which was published in the journal Ecopsychology, revealed how great of an activity walking is, though it's often overlooked. Going for a stroll is low in cost, easy to do and especially great for seniors, since it's low-impact. Walking combined with nature and a few friends can be a powerful stress reliever. So, getting a few friends in the retirement community together for a nature walk may improve overall disposition and help treat depression.

The prevalence of mental illness
As people age, they begin to exercise less and become more sedentary. A lack of activity can lead to an increase in mental illness. Certain mental conditions, such as depression, are very common among older adults. The National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that more than 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older deal with depression. The condition often can be brought on by loneliness, a disability or having to depend on others for help. Sadly, many people are misinformed and view depression as part of the natural aging process. Since older adults have to deal with loss, social transitioning and chronic conditions more often, frequent activity is crucial. Exercises such as walking can improve senior living and their overall wellness. 

Any group of researchers who help discover new methods to improve longevity and mental health, such as discovering the benefits of nature walks, may be a viable solution.

"Group walks in local natural environments may make a potentially important contribution to public health and be beneficial in helping people cope with stress and experience improved emotions," Warber concluded.

So, tie up those sneakers and rediscover the great outdoors. It may be more beneficial than you think.

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