Man and Woman Walking on The BeachWalking can make you feel better about your life. Many people have experienced the benefits of walking in their own lives, but a new study confirms it. According to researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) in collaboration with De Monfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom, group walks in nature can reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Participants for the study came from England’s Walking for Health program. Walking for Health facilitates thousands of walks annually for 70,000 regular walkers. The researchers evaluated participants’ walking habits, physical health, and mental health.

Outdoor group walks have multiple benefits. Walking was linked to significantly lower rates of depression and lower levels perceived stress. Walking also enhanced mental health. Participants struggling with traumatic life events like a serious illness, the death of a loved one, or unemployment had improved moods after outdoor group walks.

The good news is that walking outdoors with others is an accessible activity. Many people can take advantage of walking as an intervention for stress and mood.

“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 to a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression,” commented senior author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School.

This research is published in the journal Ecopsychology.

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