It’s just English listening practice. Like an English teacher, but much cheaper because it’s FREE! It’s something that you can do pretty much anywhere. It’s an interesting English lesson, and all you have to do is listen to improve your English language skills. In this lesson, you also get something that’s good in your body and good for your brain.
You will find that a little bit of English listening each day goes a long way. Yes, even if you’re on your way to work, at the gym, cooking a meal, listen to this English language podcast every day and you’ll soon see that your knowledge and confidence with the English language will increase.
When you learned your first native language, all you did was listen and watch. You certainly read nothing and you certainly didn’t know about grammar or pronunciation or accents. You just had someone close to you sit down every day and talk, maybe play, and slowly your amazing brain built an understanding of language. After a lot of listening, you eventually practiced saying things, copying what you were hearing. If you were lucky, you also had someone spend a lot of time lovingly correcting you. Everyone on Earth goes through this process, and most of us are successful.
Now young children have some advantages when they are learning languages. Young brains are amazingly adaptable, building new neural networks at a crazy rate. But us oldies have some advantages as well. We already understand many of the lessons young children need to learn from nothing. Being older doesn’t mean this listening approach to learning a language is not possible, it just means we can be more efficient in our learning. So what’s your excuse? Start listening to the language you want to speak. Immerse yourself in the cadence, the pronunciation, the accents, the vocabulary you will need to know to speak this new language.
Today, I'm going to talk about something really simple, which is of benefit to your physical and your mental health. So it's something that's good for your body and good for your brain. And while I'm talking about this, your brain will be having an English lesson. You'll be learning vocabulary, sentence structures, adjectives, and adverbs, all kinds of things without really being aware of it because you're listening to something interesting.
What could be better than that?
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
One of the things which people did far more of during the lockdown was walking. In the UK in the deepest lockdown, we were allowed out 'once a day for exercise'. So lots of people took up walking. We certainly discovered many walks, which you could do from our front door. You didn't need to get into the car.
There are places to walk nearby. And we didn't know about these before the pandemic lockdown. Lots more people took up walking as their exercise, as a good activity. And as something that you can do to benefit your mental health.
English Listening Practice-Forest Bathing And Walking Your Way To A Longer Life Ep 542 Article Image
A photograph of people walking in a forest. We will take a walk through the forest to practice English listening as we learn about health benefits of forest bathing and walking.
In my psychotherapy work, if I meet someone, a client for the first time and they are not doing very well, they're not in a good place, mental health wise, there are five things I always ask about. Eating, sleeping, how much they socialize, how much social contact they have, how much exercise they do and how much they get out of the house.
Those things are really important to our mental health. And the last two of those can both be addressed by walking.
People are often preoccupied by how many steps they've done per day. And lots of people try and meet that goal of 10,000 steps. And they monitor their steps with a tracker, something like this that I wear on my wrist, monitors my sleep and it also monitors 'how many steps have I done today?' People can get quite obsessed with doing 10,000 steps per day.
However, research published by the University of Massachusetts in September, 2021, suggests that actually for middle-aged people, that's 40 and upwards, if you do 7,000 steps a day, that's enough. And there isn't much additional benefit, not much further benefit for doing 10,000 steps a day or more.
Personally, I find I'm really inconsistent. I don't do that many steps mid-week because my jobs, both Adept English and my psychotherapy work need me to sit a lot. So my step count midweek is really low. But often on a Saturday, I will sit down in the evening and think 'Oh, I'm quite tired!'. And when I look at my step count, I find I've done 23 or 24,000 steps.
That's quite a lot. No wonder I'm tired. And that's possibly because I've been for a walk with a friend. Or I've had a trip to London, but it can be when I've had a day doing something like gardening. That's a lot of steps. I don't know whether that equals out across the week. I suspect that it would be much better for my health if I did a more equal number of steps every day.
What about the benefits of walking? Post pandemic, lots of us are back doing the exercise regimes we did before. So gyms are open. And more strenuous, more energetic forms of exercise than walking - well, we can now do those again. There is a belief that's been around for a long time that there's 'No Pain, No Gain'.
If your body is going to benefit from physical exercise, it's got to hurt! It's got to demand a lot of energy. What does the research say? Is walking as beneficial as good for us as other forms of exercise or not? Well, if you've listened to our podcast before you know that I like a scientific study. So I had a look at this, I tried to determine how does walking compare with other forms of exercise?
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So scientific studies looking at the benefits of walking.
The first study I read was done by the American Heart Association and they compared the benefits of running and walking.
Surprisingly, they found that running brought the risk of heart conditions, heart problems down by 4.5%, whereas for walking, that was 9.3%. So quite a lot better. And both forms of exercise, running and walking brought the risk of diabetes down by 12%. That's quite significant, but that study was done in 2013, so it's quite old now. What about more recent studies?
Well, there was a study published in January, 2022 by J A M A, 'JAMA' perhaps? It's the Journal of the American Medical Association, so quite heavyweight stuff here. This study estimated that in the US, 110,000 deaths could be prevented each year, if people were to do just 10 minutes exercise, light exercise like walking every day.
That's a lot of people.
Another study, this time by the Washington Veterans Affairs Medical Center - so that's the centre set up to help war veterans in the US. They published a study in March this year. And they found that if people were to do two and a half hours of walking every week, that's approximately 20 to 30 minutes a day, it reduces their Alzheimer's risk by around 33%! That's significant - just for walking.
Another study this time, Harvard Health Publishing. These are articles published by Harvard University on health. This one was published in June 2021, so June last year. And they found that walking cut the effect of 32 different obesity-promoting genes. Cut it by half. So 32 obesity-promoting genes. Obesity, that's O B E S I T Y.
That just means 'being fat, being overweight'. And apparently we have genes, part of our genetic makeup - so that's G E N E S type 'genes' that promote obesity, promote being overweight. This study found that if you walk regularly, the effect of these fat- promoting, obesity- promoting genes is cut by half. Again pretty significant!
I could go on. There are so many studies that talk about the benefits of walking for your physical health. But what about the benefits of walking for your mental health? Well, like any other exercise, walking helps you release endorphins that make you feel better. What are endorphins? That's E N D O R P H I N S.
Well they're neurotransmitters. And when your brain releases endorphins, it makes you feel better. It enables you to feel pleasure. And this happens when we walk and when we exercise.
Apparently walking in green space releases even more endorphins and it also lowers the effect of another neurotransmitter, another brain chemical cortisol, C O R T I S O L. Cortisol is one of your stress hormones.
If you listen to podcast 530, where I talk about the 'fight or flight' mechanism, that's all about cortisol and adrenaline release, then you'll learn about how our brains hang on to stress. Human brains are not great at handling stress. So walking, especially in green spaces, reduces your cortisol. It automatically brings down your stress level more effectively than walking in a city or a town environment.
Again, there are lots and lots of studies that back this up in different ways. A Danish researcher, Kristine Engemann followed 940,000 people, 940,000 people that grew up in Denmark. A nd she estimated that amongst children that grow up without enough access to green spaces, they're 28% more likely to have mental health problems than children that grew up where they had access to countryside. Again, that's quite significant.
A trend that emerged from Japan in the 1980s was that of 'forest bathing'. That means 'exercising in the forest' or 'taking in the forest atmosphere'. That's 'shinrin-yoku' in Japanese, 'taking in the forest atmosphere'.
This idea was offered initially as an antidote to too much technology, working in an office and stress burnout for people living in cities in Japan, . It was also intended to help residents 'reconnect with their forests' and learn to value their forest and their countryside more. If you're brought up in a city, you don't automatically do this. This whole idea of forest bathing really took off. It demonstrated what most of us perhaps know at some level. If you imagine yourself in a cool, green forest, with sunlight twinkling through the trees, you immediately feel more relaxed. This just puts that idea into practice. We feel less stressed, less anxious in a place like that.
One of the primary researchers around 'forest bathing' is a medical doctor called Li Qing. One of his early studies looked at the sleep patterns of Tokyo office workers who didn't enjoy very good sleep. The study got people to spend the same amount of time walking in a forest setting every day, the same amount of time as they spent normally walking around in the city.
This early study found that walking in the forest, walking in the woods had a really big effect on stress levels, anxiety levels, and that the participants in the study, the people in the study all slept better on the whole than those not taking part. And researchers found that afternoon walks were more beneficial than morning walks.
Li Qing published a whole book on forest bathing, or 'shinrin-yoku'. I it's called 'Forest Bathing. How Trees Can Help You Find Health And Happiness'. So this man has done quite a lot of research on 'forest bathing'. Why does being in a forest have such a positive effect on our health and wellbeing? Well, he concludes that it's because there's additional oxygen in the woods and also that trees, especially evergreen trees - so that's trees that are green all year round, they don't lose their leaves - especially evergreen trees give off a substance called 'phytoncides' That's P H Y T O N C I D E S. I didn't know that word before making this podcast! And these 'phytoncides' help reduce our heart rate and our blood pressure.
He's a scientist. So of course, everything must be able to be proved. It must be down to chemicals. It must be some physical thing that is provable. I would say it's instinctive why green spaces simply calm us down. It's an evolutionary thing. It's where we were intended to be. It's the environment that we're supposed to be in rather than living in cities. So of course it calms us down. In evolution, we've spent far more of our history in green spaces than we have in towns or cities so it makes sense.
Green spaces can be beautiful. They remind us that there is a world beyond the things that stress us out, day-to-day. That psychological effect is enough to bring down our 'fight or flight' response, I believe.
Tell us whether you use walking, especially in green spaces to help you with your mental health.
Enough for now, have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
- Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction
- Brisk walk healthier than running
- Deaths Prevented Through Increased Physical Activity
- Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s
- Steps per day matter in middle age
- Benefits of walking
- Evidence Base for Nature Prescriptions
- A walk in the woods
- Forest Bathing
- Green spaces benefits
- Podcast 530
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