By Kara Grant
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes people to be happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and certainly it always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstance may be.” Anne Frank
Although this may not be true for all people, it certainly is true in my life. I am at my most relaxed and content when I am doing something that involves being outdoors. The great thing about enjoying the outdoors is that it goes beyond just making me feel more content. It also gives me an excuse to be active! If I have to work out at home, or go to a gym, I am far less likely to make exercise happen. But, if I can get outside and go hiking, kayaking, or biking I am far more likely to be active. Being outside is so much more enjoyable for me than spending an hour in the gym! I can feel the benefit that being outdoors gives me!
When I get to spend time in nature I can tell a huge difference in my outlook and sense of well being. I thought I’d do a little hunting and see what health benefits researchers have discovered when people spend time outside. Here is just a small part of what I found on the healing and rejuvenating power of nature:
Being outside can ease depression.
We live in a high stress society with many demands on our time. Studies from the University of Michigan and Glasgow University show that spending time in nature can enhance mental health and a positive outlook while lowering depression and stress levels.
Surrounding yourself in nature may improve your focus.
In an age where we are constantly tied into so many activities and overloaded by technology, spending time outdoors can help improve your focus. Some sources say that being in a natural setting can even be beneficial in reducing ADHD symptoms.
Forest bathing can strengthen your immunity.
Studies done by Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School have found that forest bathing not only decreased anxiety, depression, and anger, but it can increase the activity of natural killer (NK) cells which are a part of the immune system that fight cancer. (A note on forest bathing, in case you’re a little worried about what that might entail like I was: it is simply submerging yourself in the natural beauty of the forest.)
It really is good for you to get some fresh air!
How many times have we used this excuse to get out of a stuffy situation or to just get away for a few minutes? Studies done by the EPA New England show that though outdoor pollutants can be bad for you health, indoor pollutants are much worse!
Natural light can improve your much needed shut eye.
Our natural sleep pattern, or our circadian rhythm is linked to the natural light of the sun’s schedule. Being too exposed to artificial light and being away from natural light can disrupt this circadian rhythm, thereby disrupting our sleep patterns. By getting some early morning exposure to sunlight or by spending a few consecutive days outside, you can help reset your sleep cycle.
Sunlight exposure will give you Vitamin D boost.
Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods so it’s important to get out and get some sunshine to up your intake. Reports by the Institute of Medicine show that Vitamin D plays an important role in the health of your bones. There is also research showing it may be beneficial for those with hormonal problems, inflammation, and a weakened immune system.
Being outdoors is good for your eyes!
I know I spend more time looking at computer screens, smart phones and televisions than I really ought to. This can lead to things like blurred vision, dry eyes and headaches. It is also believed that artificial light can provoke nearsightedness. Getting outside can improve your distance vision and lower your chance of nearsightedness.
There are many more great benefits to being outdoors, but hopefully these are enough to make you want to get started even if you’re not an, “outdoorsy” person. Spending more time outside can be as simple as:
- Taking your family dog for a walk
- Playing with your kids at one of the many area parks
- Eating lunch at a bench outside your office, restaurant patio, or the park
- Even the smallest amount of time will give you some health benefits.
Still need some ideas to get started? Take a hike!
We live in a part of the country that offers so many beautiful areas to explore and enjoy. Tripleblaze.com has a list of the 100 most popular hiking trails in Missouri Another great resource to check out is alltrails.com –where you can search within a certain area and see ratings and reviews others have shared.
There is no exact recipe for everyone to enjoy the outdoors and the possibilities are endless. Just get out and enjoy nature! You’ll be glad you did!
Curious which outdoor activities are right for you?
Contact us to discuss a customized outdoor exercise and activities plan to reach your specific health goals. Click here to contact us today.