Why a walk in the countryside is really good for you

Walking is good for you. Even if you don’t subscribe to the current trend of hitting 10,000 steps a day, there is still incontrovertible truth about the many benefits of walking. And, say many experts, it doesn’t matter where you walk, just get moving.

For much of the population, that means walking in urban areas. In the UK, 80 per cent of the population live in towns or cities. This is great for factors such as proximity of services, range of entertainment options, easier access to medical care and more activities for all ages.

Downtown downsides

But there are also downsides to city or town living. Air pollution, traffic jams, cramped living conditions, noise pollution, high living costs, high crime rates to name a few. And all can have a negative impact upon our ability to go for a healthy walk.

However, for most people, living in an urban area is also a logistical necessity. Getting to work, finding schools for the children; there are some things that become just a little more inconvenient if you are living in rural Britain.

Which is why a holiday or short break on a farm in the countryside is a welcome compromise for many. Taking time out of a busy, noisy, hectic schedule and just re-communing with nature is a perfect way to de-stress and rebalance your lives.

Norfolk in winter

Due a de-tox

Combine a few days of peaceful tranquility with some walks in the countryside and you are getting both a physical and mental de-tox. Who couldn’t do with a little of that?

The health benefits of walking have long been espoused by doctors, health professionals and physical trainers but it has rarely been mentioned that where you walk is an important factor when it comes from getting the most from striding out.

It is not just common sense that tells us that a little time out in the countryside is good for you. Research by the University of Michigan has now added science to the argument.

The research, which compares walking for an identical time and distance through a town and the countryside, has shown that “interacting with nature”, even in the middle of winter, boosts memory and concentration levels.

In fact, just an hour strolling through countryside increases the brain’s performance by a fifth
In contrast a walk through busy streets, perhaps shopping for sales bargains, has no improving effect on the brain at all.

Restoring balance

It is thought that the countryside is “restorative” because it allows people to switch off, while walking in towns and cities requires attention.

Marc Berman, a researcher at the University of Michigan, suggested a dose of nature can help cure mental fatigue. ”I would highly recommend going away for a little break in the country or simply going for a walk in a park in a town,” he said. “Our research has shown that this really is not subjective – the effects on memory and attention are real.”

The research, published in the journal Psychological Science, also found memory improved after simply looking at pictures of nature rather than photos of built-up areas.

Mr Berman added: “Interacting with nature can have similar effects as meditating. You don’t hear people say, ‘Well, I got really tired out looking at this beautiful waterfall’. Nature does not make any demands of you.”

While we realise that walking in the countryside is not always a possibility, when you do get the opportunity to get away from it all for a few hours, then consider visiting the countryside and giving your brain and body a workout.