University says walking in the woods or nature reduces stress and prevents hypertension.
Stress is a constant battle for most people today – be it from work, in the car or at home. However, unmanaged stress can lead to serious health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. People have to wind down their body and mind and one university suggests the best way is by taking a walk in the woods.
“The American lifestyle is fast-paced and productive, but it can be extremely stressful. If that stress is not addressed, our bodies and minds can suffer,” says Dr. Aaron Michelfelder, professor of Family Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Michelfelder said in a press statement that one of best ways to “unwind and reconnect” after a stressful day is by taking a walk. While any walking is good, walking in the woods or in nature has been proven to be even better at reducing stress and improving health.
Why the woods? Michelfelder explains that “when we get to nature, our health improves. 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. Walking with our family or friends is also a great way to lower our blood pressure and make us happier.”
According to a study done in Japan, walking in the woods also may also play a role in fighting cancer. Plants emit a chemical called phytoncides that protects them from rotting and insects. When people breathe it in, there is an increase in the number of “natural killer” cells, which are part of a person’s immune response to cancer.
“When we walk in a forest or park, our levels of white blood cells increase and it also lowers our pulse rate, blood pressure and level of the stress hormone cortisol,” Michelfelder added. He also suggests reading, writing, meditating or reflecting to help calm the mind after long day.
If walking near nature is not practical, hypertensives could try RESPeRATE — the only clinical proven, non-drug therapy cleared by the FDA for the treatment of high blood pressure and the reduction of stress.
Oh and relaxing does not include sitting in front of the TV or computer as electronic devices stimulate brain activity and a Facebook post or a story on the news might cause more stress!