We’ve all heard the phrase, “stop and smell the roses.” But what if that phrase was more literal? Studies have shown us that taking time to enjoy nature can provide many physical and mental health benefits.
Research shows that people who live closer to a green space live longer and have fewer health issues than those who don’t.
A recent study published in the journal Nature found that fewer antidepressants were subscribed to persons living in areas with tree-lined streets vs. those with fewer trees.
This article will unpack five ways spending time in nature can help you live a healthier life.
Spending time in nature reduces stress
There is no denying the connection between high levels of chronic stress and sickness. Being in nature has been proven to reduce stress levels, improve mood, and help people who suffer from anxiety and depression find relief.
Studies conducted on patients with depression showed that taking part in outdoor activities such as walking or gardening for just 20 minutes a day can reduce symptoms significantly. Even watching birds outside your window can make a difference!
Spending time in nature reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
Evidence gathered from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million participants was examined to evaluate the impact of nature on health. What was found was nothing short of astounding.
Exposure to natural areas clearly has an impact on health. Researchers found that persons living in areas with more nature had a reduced risk of type 11 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, stress, high blood pressure, and even preterm birth. An increase in sleep duration was also noted amongst those living closest to natural spaces.
According to study author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett from UEA’s Norwich Medical School,
“Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now, the impact on our long-term well-being hasn’t been fully understood. We gathered evidence from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people to see whether nature really does provide a health boost. green space’ was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, which included urban parks and street greenery. People living closer to nature had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and stress. In fact, one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol — a physiological marker of stress.”
Study author Prof Andy Jones noted the following,
“We often reach for medication when we’re unwell, but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognised as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact.”
Spending time in nature can increase physical activity
It is well known that physical activity can help with weight loss, but spending time outdoors has also been linked to increased physical activity levels overall! Being outdoors encourages people to be more active without enduring an intense workout routine—perfect for those winter hikes or weekend bike rides!
Spending time in nature boosts immunity
Exposure to natural elements like dirt, bacteria, and pollen helps boost your immune system by exposing it to beneficial microorganisms. Research has also found that spending time in nature can reduce inflammation, leading to many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Moreover, spending time outdoors has been linked with higher levels of Vitamin D, which has numerous health benefits, including stronger bones and a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
Spending time in nature improves concentration and memory retention
A National Institutes of Aging-supported study published in JAMA Network Open found that middle-aged women living in areas with more green space experience faster thinking, better attention, and higher cognitive function than those living in areas with less green space.
Researchers suggest that greenspaces, including gardens, grass, trees, parks, flower gardens, etc., could be examined as a possible community-based approach to better cognitive health.
Get out in nature.
Here are a few fun ideas to inspire you to spend more time outdoors in nature!
Take a bike ride. Biking is a healthy activity that allows you to enjoy the great outdoors without going too far from home. Whether you’re interested in leisurely rides around town or more challenging mountain biking trails, cyclists of all levels have plenty of options. If biking alone isn’t your thing, consider joining a local cycling club.
Go camping: Nothing beats spending time outdoors in nature while camping under the stars. You can camp anywhere from your backyard to nearby parks or go on a more extended camping trip with friends or family. Make sure you come prepared with all the necessary equipment to enjoy your camping experience without worries!
Play at a park: Make the most of your free time by visiting the nearest park with friends or family. Pack up a picnic lunch or dinner and enjoy it together while taking in the sights around you. Some parks have installed extra large outdoor size board games like chess or checkers, which can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors while playing your favorite game!
Watch birds: This popular activity involves observing birds in their natural environment. It is a great way to learn more about different species and appreciate their beauty from afar. All you need to get started is a pair of binoculars, a telescope, and some identification books to help you recognize different birds.
Take a hike: Hiking is an excellent way to explore nature while simultaneously getting some exercise and sunshine. Choose a trail near you with varying difficulty levels so everyone can join in on the fun regardless of their physical fitness level. Don’t forget to bring snacks, water, and appropriate clothing to stay safe during your hike!
Go fishing: Fishing is one of the best ways to relax and take it easy for a few hours (or days). Whether you prefer fly fishing or deep sea fishing, plenty of options are available depending on where you live. All you need is basic fishing gear such as rods, reels, lures, bait, and tackle boxes.
Make it a habit to get outside for at least twenty minutes daily, immerse yourself in nature, and soak up the sunshine. Whether it be a stroll around your neighborhood or engaging in an outdoor activity that you love – the key is consistency and doing something you enjoy!
Medical Review: Dr. Jack Wolfson, 2023