A Walk in the Woods

Volume 1, Issue 2

by Amanda Polsinelli, MD

“Go outside!” These words rang through my childhood. My brother and I were explorers of every creek and cave on our wooded mountain property. We were allowed in for a quick lunch and bathroom breaks only. I find myself doing the same thing with my kids now. We all intuitively know that being outside is good for us. For those that believe nothing unless it is randomized and proven in a dose-response relationship, there are multiple studies and meta-analyses proving this.1,2,3 Additionally, we are all health professionals; we know that exercise is good for the body. So, this article serves as a simple reminder now that summer has arrived.

The physical space and demands of our job can make our world feel constrained. When we have a day off from the low ceilings of C-pod, the often inflexible expectations of patients and our own exacting standards for ourselves, it is tempting to melt into the couch and power-watch Game of Thrones. I am guilty of this more than you. This summer, let’s try avoiding that temptation and set foot on an adventure outside. When my kids are home I feel duty bound to expose them to the allergens of nature. I can’t summarily send my 3-year-old daughter out unaccompanied yet, so I find myself on many happy walks through our neighborhood and exploring up and down our creek. On these expeditions, my world is suddenly open, and the confines of my day are forgotten. I don’t need a study to tell me that this is rejuvenating to body, mind and soul.

We may think that we are too busy to bother with a simple walk in the woods. Consider these few examples of over-achievers that embraced outdoor walks as essential to their success: 

  • Aristotle taught his pupils, called peripatetics, while walking around.
  • Charles Dickens walked 10-30 miles daily (and often at night) after he wrote. He said that if he couldn’t walk far and fast he would “explode and perish.”
  • Harry S. Truman regularly did 1-2 miles of vigorous walking daily wearing a business suit and tie.
  • Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are all known for “walking meetings” to foster health, business relationships and a sense of working together.


  1. Brown, DK, Barton, JL, Gladwell VF. Viewing Nature Scenes Positively Affects Recovery of Autonomic Function Following Acute-Mental Stress. Environmental Science & Technology; 2013; 47(11): 5562–5569

  2. Joye Y, Bolderdijk JW. An exploratory study into the effects of extraordinary nature on emotions, mood, and prosociality. Frontiers in Psychology; 2015; 5: 1577.

  3. Bratman GN, Hamilton JP, Daily GC. The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences; 2012; 1249:118-36.