Above: You don’t have to go far to de-stress since Atlanta is a ‘city in a forest,’ and offers many trails and paths through wooded areas. Image by Kevin Phillips from Pixabay.

Living in an urban setting in the Southeast can include traffic, noise and chaos. This stress might not feel chronic, but city dwellers have a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders and a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders when compared to people living in rural areas.

A 2015 study conducted by Stanford University researchers (headed by Gregory Bratman) found that when participants walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to people who walked in an urban setting with traffic, there was decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with depression. Another study, also by Bratman in 2015, further found that a walk in nature, when compared to an urban walk, resulted in less anxiety and increased working memory.

Luckily, the city of Atlanta is known as a “city in a forest” due to its abundance of trees. State parks and the Blue Ridge Mountains are just a short drive away.

While our city can provide ample places to explore the outdoors, it’s important to remember temperatures will be soaring in the 90s this summer, with a heat index easily in the double digits.

Get ready to go!

To fully prepare for your outdoor adventures, follow these simple steps, from Mississippi State University Extension, to be safe in the heat:

  • Explore nature in the early morning or late evening. This not only brings cooler temperatures, but lower levels of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
  • Wear sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and water resistant. Additionally, it’s best to also wear a hat with a three-inch brim and sunglasses.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your hike.
  • Take it slow to avoid injury. High temperatures and changing elevations can be tiring on the body, so commit to a shorter and easier trail at first.

Do you think you would be able to commit to a walk in nature this summer? If so, grab a bottle of water and some sunscreen and explore Georgia’s beautiful nature paths!

Where to walk

There are many natural settings in the north Atlanta metro area to explore on foot. Choose your own pace, from a leisurely amble to a brisk hike. Here are some resources to get you started. Some offer maps and directions, and a few even sponsor hiking/walking clubs.

For detailed info, check out “Atlanta Walks” and “Best Hikes Near Atlanta,” by Ren and Helen Davis, available at Amazon.com or davisguides.com.