Walking on two feet is one of humanity’s greatest tricks. While other species found their special talents scaling smooth trees, running at the speed of light, or tackling other creatures with brute force, we humans developed a knack for bipedalism. As bipeds, we’re free to swing our arms and use our unique tools in the middle of a chase. We also save calories––moving two limbs takes half the energy of moving four. Overall, two simple feet have saved humanity a lot of trouble.
Unfortunately, in a fast-paced twenty-first century where motor vehicles rule the streets, what was once a mode of survival has become an occasional reprieve. It’s hard to squeeze a stroll (or a roll) through nature into a schedule full of work, family, and socialization. But there are plenty of great reasons to prioritize nature walks in everyday life. Here are two.
Reason the first: nature walks can help us overcome the isolation of urbanity, especially now that a global pandemic has interrupted our typical support systems. Nature walks allow us to see our neighbors at a safe distance as we encounter faces new and old. Walking with a friend can also help increase the revitalizing effects of nature walks, offering yet another opportunity to connect (Hartig & Staats, 2011).
Nature walks can also help us move past isolation by reconnecting us to the ecological systems that sustain us. Perusing a well-forested sidewalk is a great way to acquaint yourself with a new species of tree as it purifies the air around you. You may even see a songbird or a curious rodent––or perhaps, if you’re wearing a brightly-colored shirt, a honeybee might land on you. The flora and fauna of the city are an integral part of the human habitat, too.
Reason the second: nature walks are great for human health. The human being was not designed to be a sedentary indoor animal, after all. Outdoor movement calls to us. Exercise is healthy, and being outdoors is healthy––and, in combination, walking through a green, natural setting has been demonstrated to reduce symptoms of poor mental health, such as anxiety (Song et al., 2018; Olafsdottir et al., 2018) and depression (Roe & Aspinall, 2010). There is also evidence that nature walks allow us to refocus our minds, soothing stress and opening our attentions to fascination (De Young, 2010). In a world full of uncertainty and strife, a tour of the local park is an opportunity to revitalize––and come back stronger than we left.
If you are able to join us for the Louisville Earth Walk, you will be giving yourself one dose of Mother Earth’s medication––and, at the same time, you’ll be supporting a group of environmental organizations that work hard to ensure that natural spaces are available and accessible in our city. So join us, refresh your mind, make new friends, and fall in love with the natural beauties that thrive right here in Louisville.