Besides being fun, many people also notice some health benefits associated with heading outdoors. In some cases, these observations are supported by scientific research. Here are eight science-backed ways that spending time in nature moves you closer to your overall health goals.
- Optimize Bone Health
There are several ways that time outside can help you strengthen your bones. Perhaps most importantly, direct exposure to sunlight stimulates your body to produce vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium. As you may already know, that strengthens the skeletal systems and may help slow some age-related bone loss. If you aren’t getting enough time outside, consider adding a vitamin D supplement to support the same processes.
Another way that time outside supports a strong skeleton is through increased physical activity. Many — although not all — outdoor activities involve moving and being active. This can improve muscle tone, which helps support strong bones.
- Support Healing
Both direct observations of patients and research studies support the idea that nature can improve the healing rate after an accident, injury, or medical procedure. This has led some hospitals to include natural spaces, such as garden atriums and windows overlooking natural landscapes so that patients can have direct exposure to the outdoors.
At home, you can use the healing effects of nature to recover from minor illnesses like the common cold. Additionally, simple steps like opening your windows can help reduce the frequency of colds in your family by improving ventilation and increasing indoor humidity levels.
- Reduced Occasional Stress
There is a lot of talk about prioritizing mental health. One way to do that is to spend time in nature. Numerous studies have linked spending time in natural environments with improved mental health outcomes. This includes lower levels of stress.
- Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure
According to the CDC, more than half of American adults have high blood pressure. That is an alarming number of people at greater risk of heart disease and related complications. While it may also seem overwhelming, there is hope. It appears that engaging in outdoor activities may help reduce blood pressure and heart rate levels. Some of this may be associated with increased activity levels that improve overall fitness.
- Maintain Short-Term Memory
There is reason to believe that taking a walk in nature can help support short-term memory function. One small study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders showed that walking in nature resulted in significant gains in short-term memory. This mirrors anticipated results based on studies of healthy individuals. Perhaps more importantly, the same effect may be achievable by just observing nature instead of directly interacting with it.
- Reduced Risk of Inflammation
Inflammation has been linked to a host of other health conditions. Unfortunately, it is something that plagues a large number of adults. However, there is some emerging evidence that immersive natural experiences result in lower markers of inflammation.
- Helps Maintain Healthy Vision
There is a common belief that too much time outside can strain your eyes; however, the body is naturally equipped to take in full-spectrum natural sunlight. It is not equally equipped to handle extended hours in artificial light. That is one way that spending time outside — instead of indoors under artificial lights or staring at a screen — may help preserve your vision.
- Maintain Energy Levels
If you are like many other adults, you are probably all too familiar with the midday slump. Instead of reaching for an energy drink, get up and take a quick walk outside. The combination of fresh air, nature and physical activity may give you the boost you need to push through the rest of the day. It will get you closer to the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity for the week, if nothing else.
Whether you want to reduce stress, feel more energized, or work to lower your blood pressure, there is evidence that spending time outside can help you achieve your goals.