Your parents may have been solely thinking of themselves (and some peace and quiet) when they hollered at you to, “Go outside and play!” But they were actually doing you a two-fold favor. The physical and mental health benefits from being active outside makes for an impressive pairing.
The necessity of exercising has been continually preached to us for most of our lives, so let’s start with the wonderful attributes that the Great Outdoors can bring to our health. Studies show that spending 120 minutes in nature weekly is ideal for optimal health and well-being.
- Lower your cortisone level, the hormones associated with stress, and alleviate racing thoughts while improving your mood
- Nature’s calming effect helps overall life satisfaction and promotes feelings of happiness
- Boost your immune system – exposure to plants increases white blood cells; sunrays strengthen infection-fighting T-cells
- Sunshine can lower your blood pressure and heart rate by causing nitric oxide in skin to widen blood vessels
- If you spend most of the time in front of a screen, getting outside can improve blurred and double vision, while also helping fend off nearsightedness
- Burn more calories – the body uses more energy to balance CO2 levels and consume oxygen
- Nature’s inspiration helps reduce depression, anxiety, and memory problems
- An outdoor adventure can improve sleep quality and aid with sleep disorders
- Achieve overall better brain function such as higher levels of concentration, focus, creativity, and improved mental clarity
We all know that exercise is recommended for good health, but for people who aren’t fervent athletes, the word “exercise” often conjures up heavy sighs and feelings of guilt. Instead, try repositioning “exercise” to simply “active.” People are often surprised by the different activities that can provide a good workout and promote mental health. Here are why outdoor activities have a leg-up on indoor, gym environments:
- A myriad of hobbies, sports, and pastimes qualify as active – if your body is moving, it counts: gardening, biking, hiking, paintball, playing at the dog park (see below), softball, rock-climbing, swimming, and golf
- Whether you crave alone time or social interaction, the outdoors provides the perfect environments for quiet thinking or gathering the family for sporting fun
- Opportunities for nature activities can continue year-round with seasonal choices like kayaking, skiing, ice skating, surfing, and pickleball
- Business trips, road trips, and vacations aren’t a hinderance for outdoor activities – go for a jog, take up snorkeling, try snowshoeing, relax with yoga, go birdwatching
- No membership fees required to hit the outdoors – go as often as you are able!
Bonus: Pet Pal Motivation
If you have a furry friend, besides unconditional love, they are often a great impetus to get outside and move, especially with dogs, horses, and adventurous cats.
- Dog owners walk more – according to studies, up to 22 minutes more a day
- Improve human and pet physical health – studies have shown that fitness reduces the risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, kidney diseases, respiratory conditions, and forms of cancer
- Just caring for and interacting with your pet often lends itself to improved moods and reduced stress for you both
- Playing with pets and burning off energy is fun and healthy for everyone involved
- Social interaction for humans and pets is often therapeutic – schedule play dates, group walks, or dog park romps
What are you waiting for? There is a whole wide world out there that your body can’t wait to explore!
Need additional health guidance? Contact Hudson Physicians.