Scientists have found natural anti-cancer killer cells in humans increase significantly after walks in the woods. The same studies show the presence of more anti-cancer proteins in subjects’ bodies after a walk in a park, with the effects lasting up to one full week.
How do you tap into the power of nature? First, find a park or other green space. You don’t have to be in the wilderness — a city park or green location away from traffic will do. Make sure you have left your digital devices behind (or turned off, in case you like to carry them with you for safety.) Then, walk aimlessly and slowly. Let your body be your guide. The point is to savor the sounds, smells and sights of nature.
Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in trees above you. Look at the different greens of the trees. Observe the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of what’s overhead and under your feet. Put your hands on tree bark, touch branches along the way (but steer clear of poison oak, sumac and ivy, of course!).
If you’re in a wheelchair or use a walker, you can still enjoy the same benefits. In fact, this is one instance where a slower pace works in your favor. Be sure to find a path that doesn’t present obstacles, or travel with a companion.
Researchers note that enjoying nature is preventive medicine, not a treatment. However, the benefits are too real to ignore. Especially during the pandemic, understanding the link between nature and health has become more urgent.
With more than 65% of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2025, fewer people will be able to reap the benefits of green spaces! This is one reason that green spaces are an integral design feature of CHI Living Communities, many of which have walking paths, gardens and outdoor patios for residents to enjoy.
As the days get longer and warmer, be sure to go deeply into a wooded area … or at least enjoy a walk in your neighborhood park! Nature’s beauty is good medicine.