Going outdoors and feeling the sun kiss your skin, or feeling the breeze blow are both relaxing and improve your mood. But, time outdoors does much more for us than just helping our mood. Recent research proves that time spent outdoors has many physical and mental health benefits. With the latest scientific facts in hand, we’ll explore some of the benefits of time with nature.
Spending time outdoors can boost your immune system, making you less likely to become ill and better equipped to fight diseases. The combination of fresh air, sunshine and nature’s glory all combine to work actual physiological changes in the body that affect our immune system.
- In Japan, researchers discovered that women who spent time in forested areas produced more cancer fighting cells.
- Exposing the skin to sunlight causes production of Vitamin D, important in the manufacture of certain white blood cells. Vitamin D is also important in fighting inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis.
- Faster healing times when exposed to natural sunlight has been documented among a group of patients recovering from spinal surgery. They also experienced less pain.
Improved Mental State
Researchers have known for years that outdoor time helps with the management of depression, anxiety and stress. With the release of the most recent clinical studies, proof that time in nature benefits those with attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer’s and other mental conditions is conclusive.
- Children with ADHD were tested before and after one hour of outdoor activity. The results showed that ability to focus improved after time spent in nature.
- Adult subjects exposed to natural surroundings expressed increased confidence in task management and a more positive outlook on life. They also demonstrated greater mental clarity and focus.
- Alzheimer’s victims that spend time outdoors require less medication to manage behavioral episodes and enjoyed a higher quality of interaction with others.
- Patients with depression and anxiety disorders report improvements in mood and fewer symptoms of anxiety. Time spent near running water, such as a waterfall is especially beneficial.
Better Physical Fitness
It’s an obvious conclusion that if you’re outside, you’re not parked on the couch, so your activity levels are naturally increased. But, the beneficial effects of nature impact fitness levels in other ways as well.
- A 2010 Japanese study showed that time around trees and forests decreased cortisol levels, and resulted in lower heart rates and blood pressure readings.
- Patients with Type 2 diabetes experienced better overall blood sugar readings.
- Survivors of breast cancer were prescribed gardening activities to combat chronic fatigue. Results showed an amazing increase in energy levels across the group.
- As part of a program to combat childhood obesity, school age children were directed to include their family in nature walks. Not only did fitness levels increase, children expressed an increase in confidence and self-esteem, as well as improvements in family relationships. Most of the students involved continued the activity after the study closed.