A Walk (or skate) in Algonquin Park is Good For you

Who knew?

The folks at Northern Edge Algonquin greatly enjoyed this article suggested by @thecleversheep on twitter: Why is walking in the woods so good for you? – The Globe and Mail:

| “In Japan, they call it shinrin-yoku – literally, “forest bathing.” Here, we might just call it a walk in Algonquin park. Either way, people around the world have an intuitive sense of the restorative power of natural environments. The question researchers are wondering is: Why?” |

Living at Algonquin Park and spending as much time as we do out in nature, we truly appreciate the benefits of living with nature.  For our guests the shift from city life, to the sights, sounds, smells of nature is something that takes getting used to.  It’s no wonder that after even just a few hours of time at Algonquin Park – on the water or on a forest trail – without the noise and distraction of the city, most guests experience a euphoric sense of tranquility and peace.

They look around our Algonquin Park home and accommodations and wonder, “What is going on here?  There is something special here.”

In truth, we’d like to take credit, but nature is a big helper.  Much of the buildings and landscaping we’ve done at the Algonquin Park nature retreat bring nature close.  While many traditional “resorts” knock down the trees and clear the way for people, we’ve chosen to keep the trees and their residents (birds, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and such) nearby.

What causes the sense of wellness and provides these cognitive benefits.  The article discusses a few of them:

  • Time in nature gives voluntary attention a break, since your mind has a chance to wander aimlessly and be engaged – involuntarily but gently – by your surroundings. Here at Algonquin Park, you’re away from loud noises and distractions. Dr. Berman explains. “It tends to be less crowded so you don’t have to worry about bumping into people, and it also has interesting stimulation to look at, which captures your attention automatically.”
  • In contrast, honking horns and traffic lights and crowded sidewalks – and pretty much every other ingredient of modern life in a big city – constantly force people to exert their voluntary attention to react or block them out, leaving folks more cognitively depleted.
  • Researchers at Japan’s Nippon Medical School suggest that trees emit a fine mist of health-giving “wood essential oils.” In a series of shinrin-yoku studies, researchers have reported that walking for two hours in a forest enhances immune function (as measured by levels of “natural killer cells”), reduces levels of stress hormones and lowers blood pressure, compared to similar walks in downtown Tokyo.  Think of that the next time you are portaging a canoe down a trail in Algonquin Park.  Breath in the good tree essence!

How to get the best from nature

Suck it up

It doesn’t seem to matter whether folks in these studies enjoyed their walks or not.  The benefits came in all kinds of weather regardless of how comfortable the subjects were while out in nature.  Having a nice warm accommodation after spending time on the trail is assured here.

Think outside the park

Algonquin Park isn’t the only option (but we think it’s a good one): A trip to the museum might offer the same attention-restoring experience. Studies show even pictures of nature, or indoor plants can have positive health effects too.

Find the sweet spot

Science is suggesting that each individual has to find the level of stimulation that is right for them.  Too much stimulation or intensity and challenge isn’t healthy.  Nor is boredom and passive lazing about.  That’s why Northern Edge Algonquin has created three different types of nature experiences at Algonquin Park.  Rejuvenator experiences featuring yoga and nature retreat elements; Algonquin Park Explorer’s Cabin packages guests deeper into nature – further from the sights and sounds of the city where guests sleep in tents in Algonquin Park.

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