At this point, it’s a well-known fact that just being outside in nature is good for your health. We’re talking about physical health, mental health, and emotional health. Exploring the natural world in any capacity has been proven to improve concentration and focus, reduce symptoms of depression and stress, and even accelerate certain aspects of physical healing processes. Being outside is part of our innate instinct, even though the majority of us live indoor lives these days and are increasingly removed from the natural world.
A report from July 2018 compiled data from more than 140 studies involving 290 million people showed conclusive results that spending time in nature is good for your health in a mind-boggling slew of ways. Experts recommend spending at least 30 minutes per week in nature—any way you can get it. Don’t think you need to get deep into the mountains or backcountry to make a difference. Simply visiting a nearby park, community garden, or other green space can prove a boost to your overall well being. Here just a few of the reasons why spending time in nature is beneficial to all aspects of your life.
1. Helps Promote Exercise-Focused Lifestyle
If you’re outside, it’s likely that you’re moving around. The benefits of living an active lifestyle permeate every aspect of our lives (especially in making us stay youthful), and something as simple as a nature walk or dynamic stretching outdoors in a green space can benefit joint health, reduce blood pressure, lower the risk of heart disease, and elevate overall mood and mindset.
2. Reduces Stress
The constant influx of vehicles, noise, advertising, bright lights, and lack of complete darkness can take a toll on stress and anxiety levels. We are inundated with visual and auditory stimulation for our entire waking hours. Taking a stroll through a quiet pathway under a canopy of trees puts us in an environment of tranquility to help calm down the neural pathways firing stress reactors. Negative thought spirals contribute to stress and anxiety, and an hour-long walk in nature reduces activity in the brain linked to cyclical, negative thoughts. Even a view of nature, as opposed to an urban scene, has been proven to lower stress hormones and help relax muscle tension.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
Lowering blood pressure comes from a combination of elements. People who spend time in nature are more likely to feel socially connected and less stressed, which can reduce blood pressure. Lowered blood pressure also falls under the overarching benefit of exercise. Consistent physical activity means you’re making your heart stronger, which allows it to pump more blood with less effort. A healthier heart putting forth less work to get the same amount of blood throughout your body is putting less stress and pressure on your arteries.
4. Restores Attention and Focus
Calming nature scenes are restorative and allow our brains to reset, as opposed to the hyperstimulation associated with modern society. Studies have shown that viewing a green space or nature scene can have a positive impact on participants’ abilities to perform Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) exercises. In short, participants were given a mentally challenging exercise that measures the ability to maintain focus over an extended period of time. They did this two times, with a short break in between. Groups provided with a view of a natural rooftop scene during this break versus the group that viewed an urban rooftop scene, performed significantly better in the second trial.
5. Helps Provide an Immune System Boost
Researchers say that spending time in nature can be equated to putting your body into a sort of “reset” mode—relaxation on a micro level. When we spend time in a peaceful, serene outdoors space, our bodies go into the opposite of “fight-or-flight” mode. The elevated stress responders in fight-or-flight mode have been known to reduce immune system strength, so it makes sense that the opposite would be true for “relaxation” mode. Additionally, increased exposure to Vitamin D helps boost the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is tied to decreased ability to fight off infections, not to mention the sun’s rays are also an overall mood booster.
6. Overall Increase in Mental Health
People who spend more time in nature report an increased ability to adapt to potentially stressful changes in life, as well as obstacles faced day-to-day. Spending time outdoors aids in facilitating social activity, providing a neutral space to meet, socialize, and explore outside the realm of routine. The confines of our primarily indoor life can be challenging for physical and mental health, and the cure can be as simple as spending a few extra minutes outdoors each day.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be extreme. Just spend some time in your local park or on your favorite trail. Remember to stop, take a deep breath, and appreciate all the health benefits you get from being outside.
Written by RootsRated for Friends at Republic of Durable Goods.
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