There is something deeply magical about walking in the woods: it is tranquil, quiet, peaceful and mind-clearing; so it’s no wonder the Japanese coiled the term Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” to describe the practice of spending more time in the forest to improve their health and sense of well-being. This is something we should all do more of because walking in the woods boasts a number of health benefits for us and our four-legged friends.
In Milton Keynes we are really spoiled for choice with woods dotted across the city within easy reach of all of us. I often take the dogs we walk to Shenley, Hazely, Linford, Howe Park, Salcey Forest and Marston Vale ; however, my personal favourite for weekend dog walks with my own little guy (Grizzle) is Bow Brickhill / Aspley Wood.
Although popular with the locals, these woods always feel empty. Perhaps that’s because you can access them from different points which means you get a new view and empty trails almost every time.
My Top 6 Health Benefits of Walking in the Woods
- Lower your blood pressure. Japanese researchers measured the blood pressure of a group of busy city workers before and after a 2 hour walk in the woods. The result? The group had lower blood pressure after walking through nature than before.
- Help your brain work better. Walking through a green area with trees has been found to aid learning and memory, so much so that kindergartens are beginning to pop up across Europe and the US as teachers slowly begin to appreciate what nature can do to boost their curriculum and student learning and engagement. In fact, if you are based in Milton Keynes, Northampton or any of the surrounding villages you will want to check out Fire & Air – in a nutshell they explore learning and well-being using the forest as their school, really amazing work!
- It may help with depression. How many times have you felt a bit rubbish before heading out for a long walk only to come home at the end of it feeling far better than when you set out: more alert, fresher and positive. In fact, studies suggest that city dwellers living near trees were found to have better mental health, with lower rates of prescriptions for antidepressants, than those with no greenery around them.
- Getting your dog back to nature. Is a stroll through the neighborhood, endless games of ‘fetch’ or hanging around a park what your dog would do in the wild? When looking at keeping your dog in tip top health you should always try to mimic nature where possible (and safe to do so). Hiking and walking on trails is an excellent form of activity for your dog because it is similar to what they would do in nature.
- Walking up hills to keep strong. Just like us, our dogs fitness levels can plateau so to keep them strong and healthy into old age we need to keep challenging our dogs and ensuring they engage in lots of stimulating walks and hikes in varied surroundings, which will also keep them mentally active too! All dogs should walk up hill regular to keep strong, even your senior pooch.
- Moving on uneven terrains (rocks, logs and dodging other obstacles found in the woods) is my final important tip for maintaining strength and balance – for both you and your dog. When you discover a new walk there is a sense of excitement as you set out to explore the unknown and the health benefits are real here too: think unused muscles, balance, coordination and concentration.
So go on and get out to your local woods more often. Grab your dog and clamber over hills, splash in streams, stumble over rocks and trip yourself up over a log – I guarantee you both will love it!