Everybody knows the feeling. You’ve grown lethargic staying in these temperature-controlled confines. The desire to get outside has transformed from a want to a need. To breathe in that mountain air. To fall asleep under a blanket of stars. To feel the burn of a long hike uphill. Being outside makes your life better. Here’s how.
Mental Benefits of Nature
The physical benefits of hiking are obvious. But what about the mental benefits?
According to a 2015 study, walking for 90 minutes in a natural environment can put the brakes on negative and obsessive thoughts. Since it can take more than 20 minutes mentally to recover from an e-mail message, getting outside may just be the right mental health prescription.
Similarly, nature therapy could reduce stress.
In a 2011 Japanese study, adults who spent time in nature exhibited lower levels of cortisol, the hormone used as a marker for stress. These same adults also had lower blood pressure and lower heart rates.
In fact, people with major depressive disorder come away in a better mood after taking a 50-minute walk in a natural setting according to 2013 data.
Writer’s block? Stumped on a math equation? Need some inspiration for a new ad campaign?
In a 2012 analysis, researchers studied the before and after creativity levels and problem-solving abilities of participants in Outward Bound. After four days of backpacking and being disconnected from multimedia and technology, there was a 50 percent increase in performance credited to their immersion in nature.
Ever walk into a room and forget what you came in for? Besides cognitive skills, outdoor activity can help prevent memory loss and improve concentration.
A 1991 study showed that a walk in the woods helped folks restore their waning attention better than a walk in the city or just general resting indoors. More recent 2008 University of Michigan findings say walking in nature improves attention.
Nature: A Prescription For Chronic Diseases
From head to toe, data is revealing a real benefit for chronic diseases.
My partner suffers from inflammation issues, so we were especially elated to hear the results of a 2012 Chinese analysis demonstrating that those exposed to forest environments versus urban environments yielded lower levels of inflammation.
According to a 2004 study, involving children in outdoor activities after school and on weekends can reduce attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms greatly. Further, findings from a 2013 report demonstrate that outdoor activities result in better eyesight for elementary school children.
As for the C-word, walking in a forest field has proven to increase anti-cancer proteins in blood in a 2007 Japanese study.
John Muir was absolutely right when he said, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” Science has confirmed that nature is awesome.