Science shows that spending time in the great outdoors can actually make you healthier, reports the Huffington Post. Escaping to the woods, mountains or even your neighbourhood park helps both your body and your brain. Here are seven ways the outdoors makes us healthier.
Getting outside makes exercise easier: Research conducted at the University of Essex showed that the colour green, such as that found on trees, grass and other plants in nature, makes exercise feel easier. The small study tested cyclists pedalling in front of green, grey and red images. Those exercising in front of the green showed less mood disturbances and reported that they felt lower exertion during their cycling. Plus, other research showed that those who exercise outside are more eager to return for a future workout than those who stick to the gym.
It can spur weight loss: It turns out, not only is the outdoors great for making exercise feel easier and often more enjoyable, but some outdoor elements – like mountains – directly contribute to weight loss. Simply spending time at high altitude could help shed some pounds, even if you’re just visiting. The higher heights can speed up your metabolism, while actually lessening hunger cravings. So go ahead and plan those mountain escapes, hiking adventures and ski trip getaways.
Nature increases brain function: Taking in a bit of nature can help your brain in more than one-way. For starters, logging outdoor hours may increase concentration skills.
aking a stroll can also increase creativity. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that walking increases creative production. And while walking anywhere – whether through the woods or in a mall – is beneficial in that it prompts creativity, researchers found that the actual act of spending time outside also influences novelty. Plus, all of that fresh air is a quick way to kick your brain into high gear. Ditch the caffeine and stick to a walk in the park. Some say that 20 minutes outside can wake you up just as much as one cup of coffee can.
It amps up vitamin D intake: While we all know to protect ourselves from the sun to avoid skin cancer, we also need vitamin D for bone growth, cell growth, inflammation reduction and neuromuscular and immune function. Unfortunately, your skin can only drink in the D from unprotected exposure. However doctors suggest ‘sensible exposure’, that means only going out in the sun for about one third to one half of the amount of time it would take your skin to mildly burn, roughly 10 to 15 minutes. So, after you’ve gotten a bit of vitamin D, reach for the sunscreen, grease up and continue your exploration of the great outdoors.
The outdoors may even help us age gracefully: Research published in the Journal of Aging Health shows that getting outside on a daily basis may help older people stay healthy and functioning longer. Another research demonstrates that gardening can help dementia and stroke patients improve social skills and confidence, while even increasing mobility and dexterity. Outdoor activities that revolve around group-oriented exercises or hobbies have their own benefits for older people.
Nature is great for stress-reduction: Spending time in nature has been shown to lower stress levels, Seattle-based environmental psychologist Judith Heerwagon tells The Huffington Post. “Just looking at a garden or trees or going for a walk, even if it’s in your own neighbourhood, reduces stress,” she says. “I don’t think anyone understands why, but there’s something about being in a natural setting that shows clear evidence of stress reduction, including physiological evidence – like lower heart rate.”
The outdoors make us happy: “Trees offer shade, protection and often have fruits and nuts, so they are a source of food as well as protection and comfort,” explains Heerwagon. The idea is that we like things that are inherently good for us and our survival, which is why trees and other natural elements can help lift our moods.
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