Summer walking: health benefits and top tips
Our health advisor, Steven Meaden, shares the benefits of summer walks and how to care for your health on hot, sunny days.
As the summer season unfolds, nature unveils its vibrant colours, inviting us to step outside and immerse ourselves in its beauty. One of the most enjoyable and accessible activities during this time is going for walks.
Whether you stroll through a park, wander along a beach, or explore a forest trail, walking in the summer offers numerous benefits for both physical health and overall well-being.
The ever-changing natural environment
With the arrival of summer, longer daylight hours and increased temperature, the natural environment undergoes a remarkable transformation with lush greenery, flowers blooming in abundance and wildlife flourishing.
This amazing shift in the natural environment serves as an irresistible invitation to explore and connect with nature through walks.
Health benefits of walking
Taking regular walks during the summer not only allows you to bask in nature's splendour but also offers significant health and well-being advantages. Here are some key benefits of walking:
Walking is a low-impact aerobic exercise that promotes cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, and improves flexibility. It increases your heart rate, thereby enhancing blood circulation and lung capacity.
Regular walks can also contribute to weight management, reducing the risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (Lee et al., 2020).
Nature has a profound impact on our mental well-being, and walking among the summer's beauty can uplift spirits and enhance mood.
Research by Berman et al. (2012) has shown that spending time in natural environments, including parks and forests, reduces stress levels and enhances cognitive function.
The combination of exercise, fresh air and the sights and sounds of nature during summer walks can help alleviate anxiety and boost overall happiness.
Vitamin D boost
Sunlight is a primary source of vitamin D, essential for maintaining bone health and supporting immune function. Walking outdoors during the summer exposes your skin to sunlight, aiding in the synthesis of this vital vitamin (Holick, 2017).
However, it is crucial to strike a balance and avoid excessive sun exposure. Wearing sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, and walking during morning or evening hours can protect your skin while reaping the benefits of sunlight.
Caring for your health and well-being in summer
While walking in the summer can be delightful, it is essential to take certain precautions to ensure your health and well-being remain a priority. Here are some important tips to remember:
Higher temperatures and increased physical activity during walks can lead to dehydration.
Carry a reusable water bottle and drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your walks. Remember to sip water at regular intervals, even if you don't feel thirsty, to maintain optimal hydration (NHS Inform, 2019).
Choose lightweight, breathable clothing that allows for air circulation and moisture evaporation. Opt for light-coloured fabrics that reflect sunlight and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
Wearing comfortable shoes with adequate support is crucial to prevent foot injuries and blisters (College of Podiatry, 2023).
Time of day
Avoid walking during the hottest part of the day, typically between 10am and 4pm when the sun's rays are strongest. Instead, schedule your walks for early morning or late evening to enjoy cooler temperatures and reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses (www.ramblers.org.uk, 2023).
Find a walking trail
Whether you’re looking for a shady woodland walk, a National Nature Reserve to explore, or a trip to the beach, you’ll find lots of places of walk on our Days Out website.
Our walking trails are waymarked from start to finish and are graded to give an indication of difficulty, so you can choose a trail that’s right for you and not get lost along the route.
Our accessible walking trails are suitable for everyone including people with wheelchairs and pushchairs and many of them have benches or other resting places along the route.
If you want to know what’s in your area, you can use our interactive map to find woodlands, reserves, trails and open access land near you.
Wherever you choose to walk, look after the outdoors by following the Countryside Code: remember to care for nature and leave no trace of your visit.
So, what are you waiting for? Get outside this summer and discover the incredible benefits of spending time in nature during the summer months.
Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2012). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207-1212.
Holick, M. F. (2017). The vitamin D deficiency pandemic: Approaches for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, 18(2), 153-165.
Lee, I. M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., & Katzmarzyk, P. T. (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: An analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet, 380(9838), 219-229.