Going for a daily walk offers significant mental and physical health benefits. And although you can certainly walk on a treadmill to get your steps in, walking outdoors offers even greater benefits. If you live here in Florida or another area where weather permits, lacing up your sneakers and going for a daily walk outside can go a long way toward helping you reach your health and wellness goals.
1. Your mood will improve
Exercise of any kind signals your body to release endorphins, which improve mood and trigger positive feelings in the body. Research has shown that going on regular walks improves your nervous system, leading to decreased levels of anger and hostility. Walking outdoors is even more beneficial: studies have shown that being in nature reduces tension and depression. If you’re not able to take a walk outdoors, pull up some pictures of natural scenery to look at while you’re on the treadmill. Even just looking at pictures of nature has been shown to increase feelings of positivity and emotional stability.
2. You’ll feel more creative
Spending time outdoors is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Whether you’re struggling with writer’s block or can’t figure out the solution to a problem at work, taking a walk outside can help clear your mind and trigger new ideas. Research has shown that people who are up and moving around are more likely to be creative than people who are sitting down.
3. You’ll lower your risk of lung cancer
Taking a daily walk can reduce your risk of lung cancer by as much as 30 percent. It can also help lessen the severity of symptoms associated with preexisting conditions such as asthma or other lung diseases.
4. Your skin will look younger
Daily walking increases your body’s production of collagen, which keeps your skin smooth and elastic. It also reduces your chances of developing varicose veins. The venous system in the lower half of your legs helps circulate blood and push it back up to the heart and lungs. Daily walking strengthens leg muscles, which helps improve the venous system’s ability to circulate blood. If you already have varicose veins, going on a walk every day can help reduce the swelling.
5. You’ll increase your vitamin D levels
Walking outside exposes your skin to sunlight, which triggers your body to produce more vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies are common — even in sunny states like Florida — and can contribute to many diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and prostate cancer. Low vitamin D levels are also linked to depression, frequent illness, fatigue, back pain, slow wound healing, and muscle pain. Spend some time in the sun every day to keep your vitamin D levels up — just don’t let yourself get burned.
6. You’ll have more fun
Spending time at the gym and staring at the same four walls can get boring. Research shows that people who engage in outdoor activity report greater satisfaction with and more enjoyment from their exercise program. When you’re walking outside, you can always change the scenery to keep things interesting or try a different route to make your walk more challenging.
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Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on May 11, 2018