I stopped and started writing many times this week, unsure of where to settle. Finally, I think I have something blog-worthy to share with you. I hope you enjoy it.
I started a walking group back in February (note to self: too cold to walk in winter) and since then have been sharing a weekly walk with several people, including some who regularly show up. I didn’t know what I wanted or expected out of this, other than making myself commit to walking more regularly. My rationale was that if I walked outdoors, interacted with people I may not know, was in the safety of a group, and committed to this regularly, there were benefits.
I am happy to report there are! Being outdoors in the sun, in the woods, mostly in the rain and cold as some on you know, feels better than being inside on a treadmill or track. In fact, a thousand times better. Exercising in a natural environment not only burns off calories, it also connects you with nature and makes you more aware of your surroundings. You notice things like lady slippers in the wood, a woodpecker in the distance, and sometimes you get to spot a fawn. You are not getting that in the gym.
Forest bathing, or as the Japanese like to call it “shinrin-yoku” is connecting to the outdoors with all your senses – sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing – to benefit your overall health and wellness. Simply put, walking in the woods reduces stress, anxiety and blood pressure, increases the immune system and increases energy levels. And its free!
When I started this experiment, I wanted to walk, but not alone. I think most women feel this way, unfortunately and if you don’t have a “buddy system” you often forego the exercise. So, I started a meetup to see who might show up.
What a great idea this was. I have regularly met some of the most delightful and interesting people almost every week. Some are knowledgeable about trees, plants and vegetation and the walk becomes an educational experience. Everyone has something to share, even in the silence. I have also started walking almost every day, weather permitting at a local park I found that is on my way home from work.
I think that as time goes by and the weather gets nicer (can you hear me laughing right now?), our small group will grow. We meet at local parks and walk for about an hour and ideally, I hope we can plan longer walks occasionally, to challenge ourselves. In the meantime, this is working out just fine.