“Hey, before we go to Home Depot, would you mind if we go for a short walk?” I was itching to get out and enjoy a little time in nature. My hubby and I have been going out on the trails around our city at least once or twice a week for the last few months, and it has just reinforced my feeling that being out in nature is being in my happy place. There may be good reason for that. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can improve our health in several ways. (1)
Let’s take a look at a few of them.
It can improve your physical health.
When we’re spending time out in nature, it’s usually while doing something more active. Getting our hearts beating a little faster and our muscles moving can help us improve cardiovascular health, loosen up our joints by getting the synovial fluid flowing, and – if we’re extremely sedentary – even help us build some muscle.
In addition to these benefits, getting out in nature can help you get your daily dose of Vitamin D, which is absolutely vital for bone health, contributes to a healthy immune system, and positively impacts our mental health.
And speaking of Mental Health….
Spending time in nature can positively impact your emotional wellness.
In her article Nurtured By Nature, on the American Psychological Association’s website, Kristen Weir cites research that shows “contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.” (2)
Some of the major benefits to our Mental Health are reduced anxiety, improvements in depression symptoms, and lowered stress response. In fact, some “studies have shown that being outdoors lowered levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s a marker for stress.” (3)
Another interesting benefit is that it may help decrease feelings of loneliness or reduce the effects of social isolation.
It can improve your brain health.
As we talked about in How Healthy Is Your Brain, the American Heart Association (4) defines a healthy brain as one that “is able to pay attention receive and recognize input from our senses, learn and remember, communicate, solve problems and make decisions, support movement and regulate emotions.”
Spending time outdoors is associated with increased directed attention (think focus and concentration), better mental clarity, and higher levels of creativity. It may even improve cognitive development in children.
How much time in nature is enough?
So we know that spending time in nature is good for our health, but how much time do we need to spend out there?
In her article, Weir cites a study that tried to find out exactly how much outdoor time was required to reap the benefits:
They found people who had spent at least two recreational hours in nature during the previous week reported significantly greater health and well-being. That pattern held true across subgroups including older adults and people with chronic health problems, and the effects were the same whether they got their dose of nature in a single 120-minute session or spread out over the course of the week (Scientific Reports, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2019).Kirsten Weir, Nurtured by Nature
The researchers did say that this amount of time is not the definitive answer at this point, but it does give us a goal to work toward.
The bottom line, though, is that any time spent in nature can benefit us. Don’t think “well, I can’t get out for two hours a week so I might as well not even bother.” As we’ve talked about so many times here, something is better than nothing. Even if initially it’s just getting out in your yard and admiring the trees, flowers, etc. or listening to the birds sing, it’s a start.
The health benefits of spending time in nature are unmistakable. Even if we’re only able to spend a few minutes outside, it may help improve our health and our mood.
Have you ever noticed any of the benefits listed above from spending time in nature? What’s your favorite way to spend time outside? Please share!
Sharing is caring! If this helped you in any way, please share it with your friends!
(1) A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580568/
(2) Nurtured by Nature https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature
(3) My Doctor Told Me to Get Outside! https://wphospital.org/blog/september-2020-(1)/my-doctor-told-me-to-get-outside
(4) American Heart Association www.heart.org