If you want to stay fit and healthy, everyone will tell you to watch your step-count and aim for at least 10 000 steps a day. Now while the intention behind this is to encourage physical activity, is there a better way to get the same benefits, without having to increase your step count? In fact, could spending time outdoors, immersing ourselves in nature, be a better and more effective option?

Is spending time outdoors the new 10 000 steps?

Maybe, but first, it’s important to understand just why we’re encouraged to walk 10 000 steps every day.

The benefits of 10 000 steps

The fact of the matter is that sitting on your butt all day is doing nothing but slowly killing you. Seriously, it is. A study published in JAMA Oncology found that sitting too much can increase your risk of developing cancer.

A separate study published in Psychiatry Research revealed that, during the COVID-19 lockdown period, people who wound up sitting for more than 10 hours per day were more likely to report symptoms of depression.

Taking more and more steps may be exactly what you need to protect your health. According to a recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Conference, people who take more steps every day help to significantly reduce their risk of death. The researchers found that taking 2000 steps a day helped to reduce the risk of death by 32%.

This is probably due to the fact that walking can significantly help to improve heart health and mental health, and while reducing your risk for diabetes, improving your quality of sleep, and even slowing down cognitive decline.

Is being in nature better than 10 000 steps a day?

While many people think that reaching their 10 000-step goal is the secret to longevity, the real secret to living longer and healthier can be found in nature.

Spending time in nature – a Japanese practice called forest bathing – is exactly what you need to be doing, especially if you want to protect your health.

What does the research say?

A study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports found that by spending 120 minutes or more in nature a week, participants were significantly more likely to report good health and well-being.

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Also, a 2018 study found that spending time outdoors helped to reduce feelings of isolation, encourage calmness, and lift the overall mood.

So, nature or steps?

There’s no reason as to why you can’t take a little stroll outside for 30 minutes every day. Now, while you might not be able to reach your step goal during that time, you will certainly benefit from spending time outside.

Want to know more?

Mother Nature’s powers are limitless and can heal us in more ways than one. That is exactly why those who do not see the outdoors generally wind up sad and unhealthy.  However, research finds that Mother Nature’s embrace could be the secret to longevity for women in particular.

References

Gilchrist, S. C., Howard, V. J., Akinyemiju, T., Judd, S. E., Cushman, M., Hooker, S. P., & Diaz, K. M. (2020). Association of Sedentary Behavior With Cancer Mortality in Middle-aged and Older US Adults. JAMA oncology6(8), 1210–1217. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.2045

Pieters, H. C., Ayala, L., Schneider, A., Wicks, N., Levine-Dickman, A., & Clinton, S. (2019). Gardening on a psychiatric inpatient unit: Cultivating recovery. Archives of psychiatric nursing33(1), 57–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2018.10.001

Schuch, F. B., Bulzing, R. A., Meyer, J., Vancampfort, D., et al. (2020). Associations of moderate to vigorous physical activity and sedentary behavior with depressive and anxiety symptoms in self-isolating people during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional survey in Brazil. Psychiatry research292, 113339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113339

White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., et al. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific reports9(1), 7730. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a beauty and wellness writer who has a passion for poetry, equality, natural hair, and skin-care. With a journalism degree from Pearson's Institute of Higher Education, and identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to continuously provide the latest information, be it beauty or wellness, on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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