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This Week’s Creature Feature: Enjoy the Outdoors

Get out and take a walk 

      Researchers at the University of Innsbruck in Austria compared the emotional wellbeing of walking outside in a natural setting to the same amount of exertion on an indoor treadmill.  Each group took emotional assessment tests before and after the exercise. Both research groups felt better. But, as you probably guessed, people that walked outdoors felt calmer compared to the indoor group and more relaxed for hours after. Some wellbeing affective changes lasted for days.
      The National Institutes of Health has used several of its own studies and that in the British Journal to promote outdoor trail walks as having better health effects than indoor exercise. The recommended minimum exercise for everyone is 30 minutes five days a week. That can include a treadmill, but I prefer walking outside and carrying a camera. I walk long distances quickly. But if there is an interesting sight, I stop or at least slow down. Being quiet and attentive to the movements and sounds in the woods is how I can get closeup photos of calm animals.
      The last Thursday in December, I took a three-mile walk along the edge of Chesapeake Bay. The water was perfectly calm, and many types of ducks were actively feeding along the shore. It was so calm that I could easily hear the ducks talking to each other.
       The sounds were not the quacks of mallards but the coos and whistles of long-tailed ducks, surf scoters, golden-eyed ducks and scaup. I found the sounds calming and a little humorous.
      Along with the other ducks was a lost-looking male wood duck. The little guy was wrongly trying to get the attention of a female mallard. It was cute to see as he slowly chased her while she did her best to ignore him.
     Those observations and calm water will stay with me for a while. I will use them when I need to de-stress, and I will tell others about that great walk, especially when I think they need to relax. Walk outside, appreciate nature and destress while becoming healthy.