Enjoying the great outdoors is a free, accessible and enjoyable way to nurture a healthy body & mind.
We spend way too much time indoors 🏡
In a world with an ever-expanding list of technologies and jobs which keep us cooped up inside, the reasons to spend time outside are becoming fewer.
However, what if we told you that spending time outside is essential for your health. Being outside and surrounded by nature is hugely beneficial, but even just being outside anywhere at all has its advantages.
Here are some of the wonderful reasons to make enjoying the great outdoors part of your healthy routine.
1. Nature boosts your mood & mental health 😌
Being outside is good for your mental health - no surprises here.
Fun fact: Being in nature and away from your phone or other technologies lowers your stress hormone (cortisol) and reduces your heart rate and blood pressure. A 2019 study found that just 20 minutes spent outside is enough to see noticeable effects in your stress levels.
Being outside in natural light also helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression caused by lower exposure to daylight in the darker months. Getting outside more during the day in these months can help to lift your mood, calm you down and reduce the impact of SAD.
Interestingly, research also found that spending time outdoors during the pandemic was critical for 45% of people - helping them to better deal with mental stress (Mental Health Foundation, 2021).
2. Getting outside helps to support the immune system 💪
Our immune system works best when it is challenged frequently, so spending time indoors in an over-clean environment and away from bacteria and bugs can have a negative effect on your immune system.
We also synthesise Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for immunity, using direct sunlight. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, UVB rays are converted to Vitamin D3 - the active form of Vit D which your immune system loves!
In fact, an overall lack of sunlight is the main reason why adults in the UK are encouraged to take a daily Vitamin D supplement.
The more Vitamin D we get, the better our immune function is through decreased inflammation and improved white blood cell performance. Sunlight also helps to activate T-cells in the immune system, whose job it is to fight off infection.
3. Time spent outdoors could improve cognition 🧠
Studies have found that being outside helps with problem solving and could improve cognitive function.
According to Pearson & Craig (2014), being outside helps you to relax, which in turn allows you to refocus your mind and gain mental clarity.
This means that you are more likely to be better at problem-solving and being creative, compared to when you are inside or staring at a screen.
One thing to help explain this is that us humans have evolved over thousands of years to spend most of our time outdoors, problem solving for ourselves. Whereas technology and automation are relatively new in the grand scheme of things, so we are better adapted to go old school and get outside!
4. Helps us to stay active and physically well 🏃♀️
Last but not least, enjoying more time outdoors helps us all to stay more active too.
Research has shown that people who exercise outdoors in a green environment use around 10% more calories than those who exercise indoors.
One study (Gladwell et al, 2013) also noted that humans are losing their innate connection with nature and that this is having an impact on our physical health, driving the rise of health conditions linked to sedentary lifestyles.
The good news is that getting outdoors is a simple, easy and enjoyable way to tackle this - reconnecting with nature and supporting your health & happiness at the same time.
Simple things you can enjoy outside:
🚶 Go for a walk
🥪 Have a picnic
🌻 Plant some seeds
😌 Sit outside and listen to nature
🏙️ Be a tourist in your own town
☕️ Enjoy a coffee on a park bench
🚲 Go for a bike ride
🧘♀️ Take your workout outdoors
And why not try Forest Bathing? 🌲
For years, ‘forest bathing’ has been used in Japan as a form of therapy for improving health.
Forest bathing is exactly what it sounds like - people spend time in nature amongst trees, being calm and quiet and listening to the sounds of nature around them.
It is actually still prescribed by the Japanese health system as a way to help with a variety of health conditions including stress and depression.
There have been many studies looking into the effectiveness of forest bathing and they have found the following great results:
- Reduction in stress hormone production
- Feelings of happiness increased
- Lower heart rate
- Lower blood pressure
- Accelerated recovery from illness
- Better sleep
- Improved immune function
Forest bathing is a great way to combine mindfulness with nature, so that you can help to nurture better mental health using the power of the great outdoors.
The increasing pressures of work and home life combined with our reliance on technology mean that there are more and more barriers to spending quality time outdoors. But the great outdoors is a powerful tool to look after your body and mind, as well as tackle inactivity and chronic conditions associated with this. So let's get out there and enjoy it!
- Mary Carol R. Hunter, Brenda W. Gillespie, Sophie Yu-Pu Chen. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10
- Mental Health Foundation | good mental health for all. Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/2022-06/MHAW21-Nature-research-report.pdf (Accessed: 07 September 2023)
- Pearson, D.G. and Craig, T. (2014) The great outdoors? exploring the mental health benefits of Natural Environments, Frontiers in psychology. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204431/ (Accessed: 07 September 2023).
- Gladwell, V.F. et al. (2013) The great outdoors: How a green exercise environment can benefit all, Extreme physiology & medicine. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710158/ (Accessed: 07 September 2023).
- Wen, Y. et al. (2019) Medical empirical research on forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku): A systematic review - environmental health and Preventive Medicine, BioMed Central. Available at: https://environhealthprevmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12199-019-0822-8 (Accessed: 07 September 2023).
- Furuyashiki, A. et al. (2019) A comparative study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on working age people with and without depressive tendencies, Environmental health and preventive medicine. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6589172/a (Accessed: 07 September 2023).