Does Walking in Nature Actually Help the Brain?



Japan has been getting attention lately for more news coverage of an amazing part of their national health system: forest bathing. People aren’t going to the forest to bathe, and they aren’t filling their bathtubs with dirt and pine needles. The country of Japan has designated hundreds of miles of walking trails in parks and forests throughout the country which are “prescribed” parts of the national health plan. Forest bathing is an ancient japanese technique which includes mindful walking through the forest. Spending quiet time in nature, without any technological distractions, is good for the mind, the body, and the spirit, which is why it’s a recommended part of health.

Walking in nature affects the structure of the brain. Numerous studies have been conducted to examine what happens to the brain when it is walking, hiking, and walking or hiking in nature. Taking time to move the body, focus on the breath, and be somewhere more green and brown than concrete and asphalt is proven to have positive effects like improved heart health, reduced stress, increase in self-esteem, and a greater sense of gratitude. Walking in nature makes you feel like a better person and oftentimes act like a better person toward other people.

One recent study from New Mexico Highlands University, presented at this year’s Experimental Biology found that walking does more than increase blood flow and benefit the heart. There are numerous nerve-systems in place during walking and all of them play a part. The research specifically found that the impact of the foot on the ground isn’t just exercise. Feet are full of nerve endings- obvious to anyone who has ticklish feet. In reflexology, all of these nerve endings are related to different parts and organs of the body. The study found that each impact of the foot sends pressure waves throughout the body, most importantly to the arteries in the heart which modifies and increases blood supply to the brain. Increased blood flow to the brain is important for brain function and healing the brain, which is critical for people in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

Addiction affects the body and the brain, in addition to breaking the spirit. Walking in nature helps the body heal by giving it exercise and blood flow, sending that blood flow to the brain while also promoting a healthy production of dopamine, and creating a connection to nature’s healing powers.


Lakehouse Recovery Center is ideally located on the beautiful and serene Lake Sherwood in the quaint town of Westlake Village. Our residential treatment programs include regular outings to our local nature of mountains, hills, and parks. For information on how we’re showing our clients life without drugs and alcohol, call us today:  877.762.3707


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