They say walking down a tree lined street is the equivalent to feeling seven years younger or making an extra $10,000 a year (in fact, it was proven in a July 2015 study in the journal Nature). And we can understand why. After all, there is no mistaking the calming, relaxing, and rejuvenating experience of simply being outdoors, surrounded by nature.
The autumn months always seem to draw people back outside. Whether it’s for a hike, a bike ride, or to take advantage of the bountiful farms offering fresh apples and squash. More than just for the beauty of this time of year – the vibrant colours and the crisp, cool air – there are many other reasons to pull on a sweater and boots and get out for a walk in nature.
Studies have found that nature provides one of the most reliable boosts to mental and physical well-being.
- Disconnect to Reconnect. Getting outside forces you to leave the TV, internet, and phone behind (we recommend leaving the cell phone inside or holstered as well). The lack of distractions allow you to breathe, clear your mind and simply relax. Those emails, to-do lists and phone calls can wait an hour, and believe us, you will be much more prepared to deal with them after a walk.
- De-stress. Several studies have found that being out in the woods can lower both heart rate and cortisol (a hormone used as a marker for stress) levels. Live and work in the city? The view of nature and trees can offer similar benefits.
- Soak up some vitamin D. We all know vitamin D is important for overall health, yet many of us don’t give it the attention it deserves. While supplements can help, nothing beats the real source: the sun. Getting outdoors and exploring trails, forests, lakes and mountains is a great way to soak up natural vitamin D, which is important for bone health and may also help in the prevention of Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.
- Good for your eyes. We spend most of our days sitting, looking at screens – the TV, computer, tablet and smartphone – that overstimulate the eyes. This can lead to nearsightedness, also known as myopia, because we are constantly focused on what is directly in front of us. By simply walking outside, you give your eyes the chance to relax and widen their focus; from the ground in front of you to the landscape around you.
- Boost energy levels. Ever find that no matter how tired you feel, if you manage to drag yourself outside you almost instantly feel refreshed? Yeah, us too. Although we aren’t sure of the exact reason why, research has found that spending time in nature and breathing in fresh air increases energy levels in 90 percent of people.
- Improved mental health. Anxiety and depression can both be eased by time spent in the great outdoors, especially when combined with exercise. This makes sense as both the presence of trees and nature, and exercise have proven to reduce stress. Further research shows that the benefits are enhanced with the addition of water.
- Strengthened immune system. Research has found that forest environments in particular can play an important role in strengthening the immune system. The combination of exercise, fresh air, vitamin D and improved mental well-being all work together to help you fight off common colds, flus and other infections.
- Improved concentration. Numerous studies have been conducted on the impact nature has on concentration levels. In fact, it has been found that going for a walk in nature compared to walking in the city, watching TV, or simply relaxing, is the best way to refocus. Further, children with ADHD have been found to concentrate better after just 20 minutes in a park.
- Increased creativity. Hiking, kayaking, camping, any activity done surrounded by natural elements and away from city distractions has shown to calm our minds and increase clarity, cognitive function, and creativity.
- Expanding your horizons. Whether it is trying something new like climbing a mountain, or joining a cycling club, or simply visiting local attractions such as waterfalls, trails, and parks, getting out and about will increase your confidence, offer new experiences, and give you the opportunity to meet new people and make connections you would have otherwise missed out on.
Getting outside is about so much more than just being active. It offers whole body benefits that can lead you to live a life that is a lot less stressed and much more full-filled. So the next time you’re stressed or mentally fatigued, remember getting a good dose of nature can be the best medicine. Better yet, don’t wait, and make the outdoors a part of your daily life.