We’ve all been told before to go outside and get some fresh air to calm down, but have you ever wondered why this is a saying? I certainly have. I also wondered why typically people who spend lots of time outdoors in nature seem to be less stressed and overall more healthy individuals. What nature is defined as is debated all over the world but for the purposes of this post when I refer to nature I am talking about green spaces that are more or less untouched by mankind. Today I want to share with you what my findings were and hopefully get you outside amongst nature more often after this.
We all know that exercise can increase your physical health in very positive ways but this is only one of many things you can be doing in order to increase your overall health. I also specify physical here there because total health is comprised of much more than just your physical health. Being outside in nature not only can increase your physical health through the movement you are doing through it, but it also has effects on your mental health. In a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, they found that walking in nature and spending time under the canopy of trees causes electrochemical changes in the brain that can lead people to enter a highly beneficial state of effortless attention. 1The results of this experiment showed evidence of brain wave activity indicating lower frustration and higher meditative states when moving into green space and the exact reverse when moving out of it. There is no question this is true in my mind because I feel this every time I visit Manhattan. The minute I step foot out on to the street from Penn Station I feel the difference in energy and how busy people are. Yet when out in nature I feel more relaxed and in a less anxious state.
This brings me to my next point. Now if being outside in nature positively affects your health which is proven by science, well then how much is enough time in nature and how much nature do you really need. Luckily here in Beaufort, we not far from nature at all. The beach is close by as well as a plethora of outdoor green spaces such as swamps or rivers where we can intake all the healthy benefits of being outside in nature. In a study done in 2006 by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, it was found that “the percentage of green space in people’s living environment has a positive association with the general health of the residents.” This means that the more access to nature you have then the healthier the populations usually are because they are generally spending more time in nature. In the study it is also said that spending time in nature will “enhance worker productivity”. 2So being outside amongst greenery can positively affect your life in so many different ways.
Being in and viewing nature can also lower your stress levels. Tests were done on people to monitor some of the physiological stress responses such as heart rate and blood pressure to see what their responses were when in nature. They found that “people who view nature after stressful situations show reduced physiological stress response, as well as better interest and attention and decreased feelings of fear and anger or aggression.” 3This is yet another reason to go out and experience nature. Lastly you can get a healthy dose of natural vitamin D when outside in nature from the sun. In these days I feel like as a society we have been scared away from the sun’s rays due to skin cancer and other sun expose related diseases. If exposed in moderation, just like most things, it can be very helpful as well as boost your mood and energy levels. 4Studies have been done on depression and how the lack of sunlight and vitamin D affect the depression.
From the research that I have done it seems as though we should get outside more if being healthy is high on our priorities. You will not only improve your physical health from moving around in nature but also receive the many other mental, spiritual, and emotional health benefits that being in nature gives you. So if you are feeling stressed, take a walk in the woods. If you are feeling sluggish and have a lack of energy, read a book in a park for a bit. These types of practices will help you be a healthier individual in more aspects than one. I implore everyone to make an effort to get out into nature more than you already do and spend that time taking in the nature of this beautiful planet.
EF Coach Reid
1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23467965 2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2566234/ 3http://www.naturewithin.info/UF/PsychBens-FS1.pdf 4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908269/