What exercise can help profoundly lift your mood, while also giving a whole host of physical benefits? It turns out that simply walking a few minutes a day can do the trick. A mental health study, done by researchers at the University of Michigan, concluded that take a nature walk with a group of people has a positive impact on a person’s state of mind, improving well-being, lowering stress and decreasing depression. It’s ‘the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,’ according to Dr. John Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Apart from the mental health benefits, walking is an enjoyable activity in general for many people, allowing you to stretch your legs and strengthen your muscles, all while getting fresh air, and taking in scenery. For some people, walking can be meditative, a moment to pause and reflect. For others, it’s about getting a bit more in-shape. And if you like to go walking with friends or in a group setting, there can also be an added bonus of getting to chat and socialize. Walking can be of help to residents of all ages and varying abilities. Fort Tryon residents enjoy weekly organized group walks through the neighboring gardens of the 67-acre Fort Tryon Park. This park is home to a one-of-a-kind view of the Hudson river, and the heather gardens, a four-season garden with one of the biggest collections of heather in the United States. Walking’s positive impact on the body has also been proven. Harvard scientists discovered that walking quickly for around an hour a day counteracts the effects of genes that promote weight gain. In several other studies, researchers have also concluded that walking eases arthritis-related joint pain. It also has the ability to fend off other, more common illnesses as it’s been shown to boost immune function, having a protective effect against seasonal colds and flus. It might also nudge you towards healthier eating habits -- there’s also been research that came to the conclusion that walking can assist people in curbing chocolate cravings. All in all, whether you choose to have a quick jaunt around the neighborhood, or take a longer stroll around a park, walking can be a great way to improve your health -- as well as to relax and enjoy the fresh air.