I know you love your gym. I know your gym is nice and shiny, equipped with group fitness classes and an air conditioning system. There is nothing wrong with loving your gym but what if I told you the benefits of being outside are substantially greater than the benefits of treading along on a machine indoors? In fact, the benefits of being outside are so great, several studies have been carried out to prove the value of hanging out with Mother nature. Besides the obvious benefits like the unlimited supply of fresh (non-polluted) air and scenic beauty, there are some less obvious perks to making Mother nature your gym.
The average American spends over 90 percent of their time indoors. Don’t be an average American. Be better. Nature therapy is a cost-free, easily accessible and growing form of rehab among those seeking various health enhancements. Being outside can boost morale, enhance attentional focus and even bring a smile to your face. Imagine that!
What’s the actual deal?
So why does being outside include all sorts of incentives? For starters, the beautiful big star in the sky gives us the purest form of our Vitamin D intake. What’s the big deal about vitamin D? Well… LOTS! Vitamin D is sort of the superman of vitamins, working to combat cancer, inflammation, obesity and create a sturdy immune system. Soak up that vitamin D but lather on the sunblock, you will still reap the benefits even with a layer of protection rubbed in. Natural light also helps bring your body back to its natural state, telling it when to eat and sleep. This awesome return, allows you to regulate your sleep patterns and control your eating habits. Natural light can also increase self-esteem, healing, concentration and memory. Soak up each and every benefit of sun light.
Easier to Exercise. Easier to Lose Weight.
Green is a beautiful color but who knew it had the power to lessen the pain of a workout? In a study done by the University of Essex, cycling participants experienced less mood disturbances when they rode in the presence of the color green. Green is clean. What's more, being outside in a high-altitude setting can speed up your metabolism and decrease hunger. And if that is not enough, the varying terrain and wind patterns acts as an added bonus for your natural resistance training. Climb that mountain, your body needs it.
Stressed out? Take a hike!
No, literally, take a hike. Being outdoors showers us with a feeling of contentment, mental satisfaction and is known to decrease physiological functions, like heart rate. Even the smell of Earth's wonders blooming around us can reduce depression and anxiety. Sniff your way to a less stressful life!
Don’t Worry Be Happy
You know the feeling. Between the fresh air hitting your face and the sun beating down on your hard-working body, it almost feels like... happiness. Wait, it is happiness! Being with nature gives us a sense of belonging to something great. We dig that. In a 2011 study by Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, researchers discovered participants who walked outside on a track (rather than an indoor treadmill) experienced more positive emotions. Still not convinced happiness is a hike away? Simply by looking at mountainous landscapes, greenery or scenic waterways can trigger the anterior cingulate gyrus (huh?), the part of the brain associated with positive outlook and emotional balance.
How Much Time is Needed?
Sure, any amount of time spent in the great outdoors will be beneficial to your overall health but it was found that the length of time had a significant influence on the type of benefits your body reaped. Tokyo-based researchers found women who spent two to four hours on two consecutive days in the wilderness hyped up their cancer-combating white blood cells by 50 percent! Another study found that spending four or more days in nature can improve your creative performance… calling all artists! Spend time in nature...now.
Restore Your Memory, Enhance Your Focus
The healing properties of fresh air and scenic landscapes are plentiful. Just being in nature can summon an attentional increase, creating more focus. In fact, being outside is known to help children with ADHD. Various studies suggest that after only 20 minutes of outside play, children are substantially more focused. Moreover, in a study that looked at college students, the participants were able to repeat a sequence of numbers more accurately after sauntering in natural beauty.
Memory is also easily influenced in the presence of nature. In a study conducted by University of Michigan, a memory test was administered among participants before and after a designated walk. Half of the participants went for a walk in a nearby park while the other half strolled through the city streets. When they returned to the same test, the nature walkers increased their results by nearly 20 percent. Unfortunately, the concrete jungle is no jungle at all.
Reduce Inflammation, Boost Your Immune System
Inflammation has its purposes in maintaining our overall health, mainly fighting off pathogens and heeling ailments such as a sprained ankle. However, when not managed, inflammation can cause autoimmune disorder and even cancer. Stress and digestive issues may increase your risk of inflammation, even more reason to get outside as both are reduced when you are under the sun. It has been found that spending long bouts of time (several days) immersed in greenery can decrease inflammation in both elderly and college students, alike.
Reduce the Risk of Early Demise… Yes, Please!
Perhaps reducing the risk of an early death is a byproduct of the various benefits of living life outside, but still the fact remains. By living near greenery, you can prolong your life. Disease is less common among those living in closer proximity to nature. Be in nature. Better yet, live in nature. Your life may depend on it!