Research on the benefits of being outdoors shows that the more time people spend in nature, the better their health. In 2009, researchers in the Netherlands found that people who live within 1 kilometer of a green or wooded area had a significantly lower prevalence of anxiety, depression, and other common cardiovascular, neurological and respiratory conditions. Researchers in the UK and Sweden discovered that people who exercise outdoors in natural settings feel more energized and generally experience less anger, anxiety, and depression than those who exercise in urban environments.
Anyone who has ever been struck by the beauty of a sunset or been relaxed by the soothing babbling of a brook can vouch that spending time outdoors is beneficial to health.
Here are some reasons why you should spend more time outside:
1.) Boost Your Immune System
Spending time in a forest or in other natural green settings has been shown to boost the immune system and hasten healing processes in the body. Many studies have found that people heal faster from illnesses or stressful events when surrounded by nature rather than in an urban locale. The International Union of Forest Research Organizations reports that visiting a forest boosts the body’s production of antioxidants, nature’s cancer-killing cells.
2.) Strengthens Spiritual & Emotional Well-Being
Exercising outside not only improves physical health, but it also strengthens spiritual and emotional well-being. Researchers in the UK studied the positive benefits of “green exercise,” which they defined as engaging in activity in the presence of nature. They found that outdoor activity like hiking, boating, biking, and gardening improved self-esteem. And, interestingly, they found that this benefit was achieved after only a few minutes of activity.
3.) Combat Feelings of Social Isolation
Working in nature also helps those who are struggling with feelings of social isolation. A research project in the UK studied the positive social benefits of ecotherapy, which aims to restore health through contact with nature. Subjects who participated in outdoor conservation projects learned new skills, improved social competencies, and reported feeling more connected to the larger picture of the world outside of themselves.
4.) Better Sleep
Taking a walk on a sunny morning can help you fall asleep more easily at night. Exposure to sunlight is necessary for maintaining a normal circadean rhythm, which is the body’s response to light and darkness in a 24-hour cycle. Spending as little as 15 minutes in the sun, preferably at the same time each day, lets the body know that it’s daytime and prepares it for responding to nighttime darkness with sleep.
5.) Live Longer
Research on senior citizens has demonstrated that living near greenery or wooded areas results in increased longevity. Researchers in Japan studied the effects of walkable green space on longevity in senior citizens. They discovered that senior citizens living in urban settings with parks, walking trails, or other walkable green areas enjoyed a longer life span than those who did not live in such areas.
6.) Enhance Optimism
Exposure to beautiful landscapes also enhances optimism. German psychologists studied how exposure to natural versus urban landscapes affected people’s outlook on the future. They found that people who live near beautiful natural scenery placed a higher value on the future than those who lived in urban environments. Long-term hope for the future is key for enduring change throughout the course of life, so this research shows that spending time in nature improves the quality of life.
Spending time outdoors is good for the health. It not only strengthens the body with exercise, fresh air, and exposure to sunlight, but it also boosts self-esteem and optimism, and promotes longevity.