Depressed? Go For a Walk -- With Others

We've always been told to get out and get some fresh air.  But did you know that walking can stave off depression?

According to, a new study has found that nature group walks lead to improved health.

Now, I've never been a big fan of groups.  I've always enjoyed solo endeavors, especially in any kind of athletics (could that be because I'm a complete klutz?).  I've run for years, only once or twice with others (the only time my husband and I went running, he took off like a shot; later he said he's just always competitive -- we've never run together again!). 

One of the places I most enjoyed running was in a wooded park near our condo before we had a child.  I ran in this quiet, eerie place for over 10 years (only requiring one stitch in my knee, after a stumble).  I got through many family fights, estrangements, work disasters and trying for years to have our child, running through the peaceful stillness of those beautiful slowly changing  trees.

I'm convinced it was there I came to a place where I could accept the failures and disappointments in my life.  And then I got pregnant!

But, back to the group.  Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being, according to the study conducted by the University of Michigan, with partners from De Montfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom.

People who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation or unemployment especially seemed to see a mood boost after outdoor group walks, the Web site reports.

“We hear people say they feel better after a walk or going outside but there haven’t been many studies of this large size to support the conclusion that these behaviors actually improve your mental health and well-being,” says senior author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

“Walking is an inexpensive, low-risk and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster. Our findings suggest that something as simple as joining an outdoor walking group may not only improve someone’s daily positive emotions but may also contribute a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression.”

Maybe this is the answer to our obesity problem.  Warber notes that, given the increase in mental health issues and physical inactivity in the developed world, why not?

I still run but now it's through my neighborhood -- which has a joy all its own, on crisp dark winter mornings when windows are shining warm and yellow out over lawns.  It's not the same as the woods, where I watched hawks fly high overhead and squirrels skittered under my feet.  But it's still running, and it's still outside.  And all I know is, it helped me.


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