Long walks can improve moods and reduce anxiety, but the benefits may be greatest if the walks take place outdoors rather than in a gym, according to a new study by researchers in Austria. And while the Alps may be a particularly fine place to hike, a vigorous walk in the woods or paths near home may provide the mental boost we need to keep us moving.
We all know, by now, that for optimal health, we need to move. But research and anecdotal experience indicate that people rarely exercise if they do not enjoy it. Workouts, for many, are something like possessions: If they don’t spark joy, they tend to be discarded.
Many different aspects of exercise are thought to affect how much we like working out. But in general, most experts agree that a workout’s intensity and its duration have the greatest influence on our feelings about it.
In recent years, many scientists and other experts have focused their attention on short, intense workouts, typically called high-intensity interval training, because the duration is so slight, lessening the likelihood that people will be too busy to exercise. But while many people who take up high-intensity interval training report being pleased by the workouts’ brevity, they often also say that the intensity is not fun for them, which, over the long term, could discourage them from continuing.
So for the new study, which was published last month in PLOS One, researchers at the University of Innsbruck in Austria and other institutions decided to investigate whether flipping a workout’s focus and emphasizing its length while playing down its intensity might increase people’s enjoyment and, potentially, participation.