Walking in the great outdoors has loads of benefits beyond the physical. Here are 5 reasons to get out in nature to improve your mental health.

Here are 5 of the top ways walking in nature will improve your mental health.

1. You’ll feel more confident.

Even just five minutes of outdoor exercise in a natural setting can improve your self-esteem and mood, found researchers at Green Exercise Researchers Group at the University of Essex in England. If you can make it to the beach on the weekend, exercising near water showed an even greater boost.

2. You’re less likely to be depressed.

Getting outdoors for a few minutes will stimulate your body’s production of vitamin D, aka the “sunshine vitamin”. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with depression. It’s especially important for the elderly to get outdoors since they are at higher risk for both vitamin D deficiencies and depression.

Exposure to light is also a mood booster. Light therapy has been used to treat mild depression in those who experience SAD and may even be more effective than Prozac.

3. You’ll sleep better.

Instead of eating your lunch at your desk, get outside and take a short stroll. Chances are you’ll be able to sleep better at night. Researchers at Green Exercise Research Group found that those who walked 1.8 kilometers (about 1.1 miles) at lunchtime in a natural setting had more restorative sleep than those who walked in an urban setting. Of course, any walking is better than no walking. It’s still better for your health to walk around the block or even the floor of your office than it is to sit at your desk.

4. You’ll improve your attention span.

Having trouble focusing on a tough task at work? Take a walk in the nearest park. One study found exercising in nature improved the ability to concentrate in children with ADHD. Though the study was on children, it doesn’t take a PhD to know walking outdoors can help clear your mind.

5. You’ll feel more energized.

Walk outdoors and chances are you’ll feel reinvigorated, found an analysis of data from 11 trials involving more than 800 adults. You’ll also feel less angry, tense and depressed. Not convinced? Picture yourself walking on a treadmill in a crowded gym. Now picture yourself taking a brisk walk with the wind at your back and the sun on your face. Which would you rather make time for?

If you’re in the Southern California area and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800)USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

By Anne Fritz