Nature walks are energizing

by Ruth Griffiths

I participated in two women’s camps this summer. At both camps, I was privileged to lead nature walks. We strolled through the forest, admiring the trees, flowers and mushrooms. We heard birds and squirrels. We watched curious deer, partly hidden by branches. Although it took some energy to conduct the walks, I found the experience energizing.

Studies show that a half-hour walk in nature restores memory retention. Ongoing exercise improves memory processes in older adults and children. Exercise helps build better brains.

Walking, especially walking outdoors, also improves our mood. My senses are awakened and stress seems to slip away when I stroll through my flower garden or walk in the park. Nature heals my soul.

Tired from a stressful day, I might think that streaming Netflix would be relaxing. Instead, extended screen time is actually fatiguing.

Instead of plopping down in front of the TV after supper, why not go outside for a walk instead? Even a walk around the block in the cool evening air will help to relax the mind and get the body ready for a good night’s sleep.

Think of walking as an activity. Help children get enough exercise by walking them to the playground. Go walking as a family group. I recall a wonderful stroll through Little Red River Park on a glorious Thanksgiving weekend.

When we encounter our parks through walking, those green spaces will become more valuable to us. We protect the things to which we have an emotional attachment.

Many city dwellers cannot name the plants and animals with which they share space outdoors. Take along a simple nature guide when you go on your walks. Make friends with the birds, trees and flowers by learning their names. Your memory will improve as you challenge yourself to name things along the trail.

Even if you don’t remember the names of the plants you encounter, the simple act of walking outdoors will energize your mind.