4 Ways Nature Nurtures: Exercising Outdoors Heals Us
By now most people understand the benefits of daily exercise. It is common knowledge that at least thirty minutes of physical activity three to five days per week is necessary to achieve and maintain good health. However, what many people may not be aware of is the fact that exercising outdoors proves to be the most beneficial way to wellness for several reasons.
Just as wholesome natural foods from the earth are far better nutritionally than man-made food, so is exercising and spending time in nature as opposed to exercising indoors. Simply walking outside can instantly help us to feel better; the sun’s warmth on our skin and hearing the sounds of nature, like the wind rustling the trees, and the birds singing.
Incredibly, science has now confirmed what I have known for quite some time. Being outdoors has beneficial physiological effects on the body, including an increased immune function, and surprisingly less perceived effort during exercise. In other words, it feels like less effort to climb a hill than it does to walk on a treadmill at the gym, which is why people tend to exercise more when outdoors versus in the gym.
Science has documented research on ways to experience nature and her healing touch. A 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise revealed that people who walked on a track outdoors walked at a faster pace, and perceived less effort. More importantly, study subjects experienced more positive emotions than others did who walked on a track or treadmill indoors.
A study at Chonnam National University in South Korea showed evidence that just observing nature activates parts of the brain associated with happiness and balance. Additionally, Columbia University researchers found that live bodies of water outdoors, like waterfalls, river rapids, and breaking waves can act as natural antidepressants because of the negative ions present. Further study at Indoor Air found that breathing negative ions for just one hour improves energy levels.
Researchers in Norway discovered that people with moderate to severe depression experienced a reduction in symptoms after participating in an outdoor horticultural program in which they planted various flowers and plants. Humans are innately connected to nature, which makes the interaction a nurturing and healing practice. Unfortunately, our disconnected, fast-paced living has removed us from the very thing that sustains us.
So now that you understand the significance of being and exercising outdoors, let’s list some of the benefits so that you can go lace up those sneakers and get outside:
1. Best natural source of Vitamin D = Sunlight. Overweight people tend to be vitamin D deficient, so walking outside has many benefits.
2. Increased immune function = Overall better health and well-being.
3. Increased feelings of happiness and balance = We strive for happiness and balance in everything we do. The ultimate goal is always happiness!
4. Increased fitness = Achieve more exercise with less perceived effort. In other words, work out more, but feel less effort. Can you say winning?!?