dr ms hiking.jpg

Exercise + Nature = Maximum benefits for health

Doctors diagnose health problems, and doctors often prescribe medications. These treatments usually help, but also may cause side effects. Doctors are sometimes accused of prescribing too many drugs.  I prescribe plenty of medications, and I am going to reveal a couple of my favorite drugs with you. They are extremely powerful, have no side effects, are just about free, and can be very addictive; I happily prescribe them whenever possible.  The “drugs,” these outstanding medications, I refer to here don’t come as a pill.


The first drug is exercise.
Moving the body helps one feel well, live longer, and have less pain; take this drug regularly and you will be less likely to need a cane, walker or wheelchair as you age.  Exercise is frequently at the top of the list of beneficial treatments for most medical problems. It is even good for the brain too, and is one of the most powerful ways of reducing the chance of developing dementia.

To those who do it regularly, exercise comes as second nature. To those unaccustomed to it however, exercise can seem painful and even scary.  Developing an exercise habit, however, is worth every ounce of effort. Even small amounts can have profound effects. Walking, in my opinion, is the best way to try this drug out. Almost everyone can walk, it is easy to stop and rest, and there is a low risk of injury. As confidence increases, one can walk further, or even try some hills. Exercise truly works wonders for health.

Nature is a drug too, a very beneficial one.
While the health benefits of exercise have been studied by medical research for many years, the effects of nature on human health is a relatively recent area of medical research. Here is what the research is revealing: getting outside into nature helps us solve problems better, be more creative, feel more positive, be happier, experience less stress, and be more at peace. Nature even helps people be more kind and generous. It appears that being in nature activates the parts of our brain involved in these beneficial behaviors. It is a perfect drug, and you don’t have to spend a week in the mountains to experience it. The research shows that walking in a forest, a city park, or even just spending a small amount of time noticing trees, the sky, or any aspect of the natural world, helps.

These two “drugs,” physical activity and experiencing nature, are beneficial separately, but my recommendation is to combine them for maximal benefit.  Here in Kittitas County we have what we need right at our doorstep to experience this one-two punch of exercise and nature to boost our health. Try out the trails along the Yakima River at Irene Reinhart Park, climb the Roslyn Ridge, explore Umptanum Creek in the Yakima Canyon, or my favorite, join the many Ellensburgers who enjoy hiking Manastash Ridge.