If you’ve ever felt the call of nature, here’s an excuse to answer it. How much time have you been outdoors this week? If the answer is “less than two hours,” it might be time to go for a drive and reap the health benefits.
Research has shown that people who spend only two hours a week in natural environments, such as city parks, forests, parks and beaches, are healthier and experience a greater sense of well-being than those who don’t.
Participants in this particular study (published in 2019 in the journal Scientific Reports) were asked questions such as, “How is your health in general?” and “Overall, how satisfied are you with life these days?” “. These questions tend to be really useful indicators of health and well-being. The answers to these questions are closely correlated with the state of health assessed by doctors and objective indicators of a person’s state of health. The study builds on previous research, published in Psychological Science, which suggests that, on average, individuals have both less mental distress and more well-being (as measured by the same measures of general health and life satisfaction used in subsequent research) when living in urban areas with more green space. These studies are far from the only ones to suggest that spending time outdoors is good for the body and mind.
Here are seven other health benefits of spending time outdoors.
1. Exercising outdoors can improve your training
Regular physical activity has many health benefits, including improved brain health, stronger bones and muscles, weight management, and more. But it turns out your workout could be even more beneficial if it’s done outside. An analysis of 11 studies showed that participants felt more invigorated and more eager to exercise after an outdoor session than after an indoor session (the researchers note, however, that some of this evidence comes from data from lower quality). Two separate studies, one comparing indoor and outdoor cycling, and the other comparing indoor and outdoor walking, showed that study participants were more likely to work at a level of higher intensity when they were outdoors, without feeling like they were putting in more effort.
2. Time spent in nature can help reduce stress
Time spent outdoors can also help you manage your stress. A small study of 77 obese young adults, published October 2021 in Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that walking outdoors relieves stress and improves concentration better than using a treadmill indoors. These conclusions are supported by the results of several small studies comparing the perceived and actual stress levels (as assessed by salivary cortisol concentration) of people walking in built-up urban areas versus urban parks or other open green spaces. People who walked in green spaces improved their self-reported stress and mood levels, as well as their cortisol levels, compared to those who walked in busier urban centers.
3. Access to green spaces can help reduce cognitive decline
According to a study published in Social Science & Medicine in January 2018, access to public parks is associated with healthy cognitive aging and a reduced risk of cognitive decline. Longitudinal research examined proximity to parks and green spaces over participants’ lifetimes (based on available park information and residential addresses from ages 11-70 and 70-76). The researchers noted that the protective effect of access to outdoor parks was particularly strong in women, people with genetic risk factors for cognitive decline, and those with lower socioeconomic status.
4. Access to green spaces can help clean the air and contribute to better lung function
In a longitudinal study published in Environment International in 2020, researchers found that children who grew up in a greener environment (assessed by satellite imagery and residential addresses) and who were closer to green spaces (parks, forests and land agricultural) had better lung function at age 24 than those who did not. These results were independent of air pollution, urbanity, and socioeconomic status, indicating that access to green space can improve lung function across the lifespan. This could be because flora, such as trees, lichen and shrubs, can help purify the air, especially in areas with heavy vegetation like parks and green spaces, according to d other research.
5. The Sun Can Boost Vitamin D Levels
Spending a sunny day outside can increase your vitamin D levels. This vitamin helps muscles, nerves and skin to recover. This vitamin contributes to the proper functioning of muscles, nerves and the immune system, and is essential for the absorption of calcium to strengthen bones. Research suggests that nearly 50% of people don’t get enough of the “sunshine vitamin.” The body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but not when that light is filtered through a window, according to the NIH. Don’t skip sunscreen: even though it slows the absorption of vitamin D by your skin, it is essential to protect you from UV rays that can cause skin cancer.
6. A walk in the forest can lower blood pressure
According to a review of studies of the Japanese practice of shrinrin-yoku (forest bathing), participants who spent time in the forest had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who did not. Similarly, city dwellers who regularly visit green spaces for at least 30 minutes once a week are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure than others, according to an earlier Australian study. That doesn’t mean you should replace your blood pressure medication with a walk in the park.
Additionally, healthy behaviors such as maintaining a healthy weight or losing excess weight, daily exercise and a low-salt diet, in addition to spending time outdoors, can all contribute. keep blood pressure within a healthy range. But if you’ve been prescribed medication to manage your blood pressure, you shouldn’t stop taking it without talking to your doctor. These types of behavior changes can affect people differently; for some, they can lead to a big enough change that the person stops or takes a lower dose of medication, he says. “Some people will have very high blood pressure even if they change their lifestyle.
7. Nature sounds can promote positivity
If you enjoy the sounds of nature as much as the pictures, there might be a scientific reason for it. Nature sounds can help improve mood and boost positive affect (a term for positive emotions such as joy, satisfaction, and cheerfulness), according to research published March 20, 2021 in Environmental Sciences. The researchers found that animal noises (such as bird calls), wind noises and water noises were associated with lower stress levels and greater joy – and that in turn, these effects helped decrease pain, reduce stress, and boost cognitive performance.