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Ahhh summertime. It’s the season of playing outdoors, camping and swimming. We take road trips, hike through the woods, frolic at the beach and get away for a fun vacation.
We know being outdoors is good for us…fresh air, vitamin D producing sunshine and peaceful nature…however some of the benefits are lesser known.
Check out these 10 surprising benefits of being outdoors. And then get outside to explore and play and boost your health.
10 Surprising Benefits of Being Outdoors
This year, with COVID19, stay at home orders and social distancing, getting outside is crucial. Not only is nature a safe environment, when maintaining distance from others and wearing a mask when necessary, it offers the gifts of health, wellness, clarity and well being.
Look at the surprising ways the outdoors heals us.
Studies reveal that when we lose our ability to concentrate or focus on a task, getting outdoors for a few minutes helps us “clear our heads”. Nature allows the brain to take a break from mentally taxing activities, restoring focus when it’s time to concentrate again. Getting outdoors even improves the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Supports Aging Gracefully
While too much sun can actually age unprotected skin, a recent study found that adults over the age of 70 benefit from time outdoors. Improvements include better sleep, less aches and pains, increased mobility and the ability to perform daily activities more easily.
Speeds Up the Healing Process
Sickness, disease and surgery are all conditions that can increase stress in our lives. And stress slows the healing process. Researchers discovered that patients who spent time outdoors during recovery required fewer pain meds. Additionally, they had fewer complications and experienced shorter hospital stays.
Connected to speeding up the healing process is the fact that being outdoors helps to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is linked to a host of health issues, from autoimmune disorders to depression to cancer. Studies show that spending time in green spaces calms the body’s inflammatory response.
For the greatest benefits, spend time in green spaces such as forests, meadows, parks and gardens, anywhere there’s an abundance of trees, grass and plants.
We’ve learned just how important a strong immune system is, for fighting off viruses and infections. If you frequently catch what’s going around, spending time outdoors can help.
Trees and plants are especially beneficial for the immune system. Plants produce phytoncides that increase the production of a type of white blood cell in humans. These so called killer cells respond quickly to pathogens invading the body. Plus exposure to sunlight strengthens infection fighting T cells.
Did you know that spending time outdoors can spark creativity? The best ideas come to us when we are relaxed and a bit unfocused. See my post on why showering creates the perfect environment for creative ideas.
Unplugging from the laptop or cell phone and taking a walk outside gives the mind a break, which allows a flow of fresh ideas to arise.
Relieves Stress, Anxiety and Depression
One of the best ways to relieve stress, anxiety and depression is spending time outdoors. Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is the Japanese practice of connecting with nature through the senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
So how does forest bathing improve mental health? Spending time in nature lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. We need cortisol, for optimal health, however chronic elevated levels create health issues including anxiety, depression, memory and concentration problems and sleep disorders.
May Help Prevent Cancer
Research on this topic is ongoing, however, preliminary studies suggest that spending time in nature, especially forests, stimulates the production of anti-cancer proteins.
This boost in proteins last up to seven days after walking in the woods. Additionally, researchers found that areas with greater forest coverage have lower mortality rates from a broad range of cancers. This is a promising area of exploration.
When we feel like we need an energy boost, we often reach for a cup of coffee or a sugary soda. Instead of loading up on caffeine trying getting outside.
One study even suggests that spending 20 minutes outside boosts the brain and energy levels as much as a cup of coffee. Another study found that when participants simply looked at photos of nature, their energy levels surged upward. Pictures of cities did not have the same effect. Skip the pretty photos though, if possible, and step out into the fresh air.
Increasing Life Satisfaction
Getting outside has a positive effect on mood. More than that though, a recent study found that men and women who spent just 20 minutes outdoors in a park increased their level of life satisfaction by 64%!
Participants didn’t even have to exercise. Simply visiting the park boosted overall feelings of well being. Sitting on a park bench, strolling through a garden, having a picnic on a green expanse of grass is the ideal way to give spirits a lift.
As a child, I spent most of my summer outdoors. I swam, climbed trees, rode my bike and played a multitude of games with kids in the neighborhood. We ate lunch and often dinner on our porches and didn’t go inside until our parents called for us after sunset.
Today, kids spend an average of four to seven minutes a day outside. And adults spend 87% of their time indoors.
It’s no wonder our health suffers.
These are easy ways to boost health and well being. Get outside. Visit the park, hike through the woods, swim in the lake, meditate on the beach, plant flowers in a garden. Although activity outdoors is beneficial too, the simple act of being outdoors contributes mightily to our overall health.
Do you have a green space that you enjoy? I’d love to hear about it.
Enjoy the outdoors with these Amazon finds:
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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.