Categorized as Hiking, Weather

Getting Wet and Dirty


Are you a rain-dodger? Prefer to hunker up on the sofa when it’s wet and windy? Well put that hot chocolate down, blow out those scented candles and grab your wellies. Bad weather is good for you!

The Wetter the Better

There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence of wet weather walkers “feeling better” after a soggy stroll, so Austrian scientists decided to check it out. They found that those who walk in heavily ionised air (the air created as water and air molecules collide) had higher levels of the antibodies that support strengthened immunity and better lung capacity.

In addition, the action of raindrops falling on plants, trees and soil, causes them to release compounds which then get combined with the air we breathe. You’ve probably noticed the distinctive fresh smell you get once it’s rained. This fresh, earthy aroma has a name: It’s called petrichor, and a surprising amount of research has been done into the scent since it was first identified more than five decades ago.

The phenomenon of feeling happy or experiencing positive emotions in response to petrichor, can be attributed to several factors, including:

Biological and Evolutionary Influences

Humans have evolved over millions of years, and certain scents, like petrichor, are deeply ingrained in our biology. The smell of rain hitting dry soil may have signalled the availability of water, which is essential for survival. Positive emotions associated with petrichor might be a result of our ancestral brains linking the smell to a vital resource, making us feel a sense of relief and safety.

Natural Connection

Many people experience a deep sense of connection and awe when experiencing nature’s wonders, and yes this includes rain! Rain is a natural and vital part of the Earth’s cycle, and the scent of petrichor might remind you of being in harmony with the natural world. This connection to nature can trigger feelings of happiness and well-being.

Sensory Pleasure

Certain scents can trigger the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is associated with happiness and well-being. Petrichor’s pleasant and refreshing aroma can have a direct effect on your brain, leading to a positive emotional response.

Relaxation and Calmness

Rain often brings a sense of calm and tranquillity, especially after a dry period. The sound of raindrops and the petrichor smell can create a soothing atmosphere, reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

But it’s not just rain. Stomping about in the mud is also great for your health. Studies in Finland noted that children using playgrounds made from transplanted forest flooring had greater immunity and fewer coughs and colds than those playing in concrete and plastic playgrounds.

Mud glorious mud…

In a fascinating experiment, Finnish researchers recreated the environment of a forest floor on the playgrounds of four urban day-care centres. They covered the play-grounds with forest soil, moss, meadow grasses, dwarf heather, blueberries and crowberries and installed planter boxes for annual garden crops. The preschool-aged kids then played in the greenery and soil for an hour and a half a day, for a month.

Their gut and skin microbes were analysed before and after the experiment, and compared with those of children from normal urban day-care centres with standard sterile play-grounds.

After just 28 days, the diversity of their intestinal and skin bacteria increased dramatically, as did their T-cell counts and other important immune markers in their blood. (For those not in the know, a T-cell is a type of white blood cell. T cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow.) Who knew mud could be so fabulous?!

Physical Exercise

But that’s not all, walking through mud requires more effort and engages different muscles compared to walking on a smooth, solid surface. The uneven terrain and resistance of the mud challenge your balance and stability, leading to a more intense workout for your leg muscles, core, and even your upper body. This can help improve strength, endurance, and overall cardiovascular health.

Joint Mobility and Flexibility

The soft and yielding nature of mud can be gentler on your joints compared to walking on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement. It allows for a greater range of motion in your ankles, knees, and hips, promoting joint flexibility and reducing the impact on your joints.

Balance and Coordination

Negotiating the uneven and slippery surface of mud requires enhanced balance and coordination. As you learn to adapt to the ever-changing terrain, you stimulate your proprioceptive abilities, which is your body’s sense of where it is in space. This can improve overall balance and body awareness.

And then there’s…


Grounding, also known as earthing, is the practice of connecting directly with the Earth’s surface, typically by walking barefoot on natural ground like grass, sand, soil, or mud. The concept behind grounding is based on the idea that the Earth carries a mild negative electrical charge, and direct contact with it allows our bodies to absorb electrons that have potential health benefits. While the scientific evidence on grounding is still emerging and some claims require further investigation, there are several potential positive effects associated with grounding:

Reduction in Inflammation

One of the proposed benefits of grounding is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to various health issues, and some studies suggest that grounding might help balance the immune response and lower levels of pro-inflammatory markers.

Improved Sleep

Grounding has been associated with improved sleep quality. It may help regulate circadian rhythms and promote better sleep patterns, leading to more restful and rejuvenating sleep.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Being in direct contact with nature through grounding can promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety levels. As we know, spending time outdoors and connecting with the earth can have a calming effect on the nervous system.

Improved Mood and Mental Well-Being

Grounding has been linked to an increase in feelings of well-being and improved mood. The practice of grounding may help release endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals.

There have also been connections made between grounding and improved cardiovascular health, however, it’s important to note that while grounding shows promise in some areas, more rigorous scientific research is needed to establish its efficacy and understand the underlying mechanisms fully.


But what if you don’t live in the country? No problem! Rain is also great for cleaning the air of dirt and germs, and wind can blow away pollution. As a raindrop falls through the atmosphere, a natural phenomenon occurs whereby the droplet attracts tens to hundreds of air pollution particles, such as traffic pollution. This process does a remarkable job of cleaning the air around you, making it better to breathe in. Which means, it’s a win, even if you’re an urban walker!

So no more excuse, pull on your wellies, pop on your waterproofs and splash through some puddles!