Is it possible that spending a little time in nature each day can get you closer to a healthier, happier you? Yes!
Enjoying the great outdoors can have positive effects on health, mood, self-esteem, stress level and energy. This contributes to a greater sense of overall well-being – one of the keys to being #HealthyforGood.
Research shows that spending time in green space (a natural outdoor environment) is associated with lower levels of stress, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, stroke and heart disease. It can also help lower blood pressure, heart rate, HDL cholesterol and cortisol levels.1,2 At the same time, it boosts mood, self-esteem, working memory and overall feelings of wellbeing.3,4 It’s easy to see why some call it ecotherapy or forest medicine!
The Japanese call it forest bathing.
Imagine yourself immersed in the sights, sounds, smells and sensory experiences of the forest. Aaaaahhhh. Even if you don’t live near a forest, some studies suggest that just looking at green space (like the trees outside an office window) or living near a park or greenbelt can bring health benefits.
Here in the US, an innovative program called ParkRx (parkrx.org) has been developed by the Institute at the Golden Gate and the National Recreation and Parks Association, with support from the National Park Service. It provides resources for health and social service providers who encourage their patients and clients to spend time in nature with the goal of improving their health and well-being.
And here’s more good news.
Doing something physically active in nature – even as simple as walking – may offer more health benefits than doing the same activity indoors.1 In one study, compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy. Participants reported overall greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity.
Could nature be the missing piece in your health and fitness puzzle? If the treadmill at the gym just doesn’t motivate you, give green exercise a try. Take your walk or run outdoors with our tips for staying active in warm weather.
Summer and fall are the perfect time to get outside into green space and get active. Need some ideas?
- Take your dog for a walk in the woods instead of scrolling social media on a bench at the dog park.
- Get off the treadmill and explore trail running.
- Instead of the same old dinner and a movie, plan family outings that include physical activity in nature, like hiking, biking or canoeing.
- Experience the thrill of mountain biking or whitewater rafting.
- Explore a new park or recreation area each weekend.
- Get your garden on and create a little green space of your own! No yard? No problem. Try container gardening or a local community garden.
Learn more about how spending time in nature can help you be Healthy for Good.
Where will you take a breath in nature this month?
1 Twohig-Bennett C., Jones A. The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental Research, October 2018. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2018.06.030
2 Pearson DG, Craig T. The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. Frontiers in Psychology, 2014. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01178
3 Bratman GN, Hamilton JP, Hahn KS, Daily GC, Gross JJ. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2015. doi:10.1073/pnas.1510459112
4 Coon JT, Boddy K, Stein K, Whear R, Barton J, Depledge MH. Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011. doi:10.1021/es102947t