Get Outside: Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
“Hey, do you mind if we go check out the beavers’ progress? I’d like to see how far they’ve gotten with that tree.” A week or so earlier, my hubby and I discovered a tree that was in the process of being felled by beavers, presumably for their dam, and I wanted to see if they had actually gotten it down. We try to get out on the trails at least once or twice a week, and we never know what we might see. I always say that for me, being out in nature is being in my happy place. There may be good reason for that. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can improve our health in several ways. (1)
Let’s take a look at a few of them.
How Spending Time In Nature Benefits Our Health
It can improve your physical health.
When we’re spending time out in nature, it’s usually while doing something more active. Getting our hearts beating a little faster and our muscles moving can help us improve cardiovascular health, loosen up our joints by getting the synovial fluid flowing, and – if we’re extremely sedentary – even help us build some muscle.
In addition to these benefits, getting out in nature can help you get your daily dose of Vitamin D, which is absolutely vital for bone health, contributes to a healthy immune system, and positively impacts our mental health.
And speaking of Mental Health….
Spending time in nature can positively impact your emotional wellness.
In her article Nurtured By Nature, on the American Psychological Association’s website, Kristen Weir cites research that shows “contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.” (2)
Some of the major benefits to our Mental Health are reduced anxiety, improvements in depression symptoms, and lowered stress response. In fact, some “studies have shown that being outdoors lowered levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s a marker for stress.” (3)
Another interesting benefit is that it may help decrease feelings of loneliness or reduce the effects of social isolation.
It can also improve your brain health.
The American Heart Association (4) defines a healthy brain as one that “is able to pay attention, receive and recognize input from our senses, learn and remember, communicate, solve problems and make decisions, support movement and regulate emotions.”
Spending time outdoors is associated with increased directed attention (think focus and concentration), better mental clarity, and higher levels of creativity. It may even improve cognitive development in children.
**In case you were wondering about the beavers’ progress, the pictures above are, left to right, when we first found evidence of the beavers chewing on the tree, their progress when we went back, and finally, their dam in the creek. As you can see from the second photo, they had chewed so far through the tree, the city had to cut it down to keep it from falling on anyone.
How much time in nature is enough?
So we know that spending time in nature is good for our health, but how much time do we need to spend out there?
In her article, Weir cites a study that tried to find out exactly how much outdoor time was required to reap the benefits:
They found people who had spent at least two recreational hours in nature during the previous week reported significantly greater health and well-being. That pattern held true across subgroups including older adults and people with chronic health problems, and the effects were the same whether they got their dose of nature in a single 120-minute session or spread out over the course of the week.Scientific Reports, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2019, & Kirsten Weir, Nurtured by Nature
The researchers did say that this amount of time is not the definitive answer at this point, but it does give us a goal to work toward.
The bottom line, though, is that any time spent in nature can benefit us. Don’t think “well, I can’t get out for two hours a week so I might as well not even bother.” As we’ve talked about so many times here, something is better than nothing. Even if initially it’s just getting out in your yard and admiring the trees, flowers, etc. or listening to the birds sing, it’s a start.
The health benefits of spending time in nature are unmistakable. Even if we’re only able to spend a few minutes outside, it may help improve our health and our mood.
Have you ever noticed any of the benefits listed above from spending time in nature? What’s your favorite way to spend time outside? Please share!
Sharing is caring! If this helped you in any way, please share it with your friends!
(1) A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580568/
(2) Nurtured by Nature, Kristen Weir, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature
(3) My Doctor Told Me to Get Outside!, https://wphospital.org/blog/september-2020-(1)/my-doctor-told-me-to-get-outside
(4) American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org“
Wonderful post. Love the update on the beavers. 🦫I think that is one of the benefits of camping. We eat majority of our meals outside. We walk or bike more than we do at home because we have extra free time. We venture out to new trails or walk thru the campground to see new things and meet people. Thank you for sharing your research – I had never thought about the health benefits from being outside. .
Thank you so much Sarah! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and also liked the beaver update. It’s amazing how quickly they work – the city had to put wire fences around quite a few of the other trees because the beavers had started chewing on them too. You make such a great point about camping encouraging you to be more active. It’s wonderful that you guys have found such beautiful places with access to trails, etc. Sending lots of love and hugs your way!
Very interesting article! I can attest that getting outside completely changes my attitude. So, if I need an attitude adjustment, I just “send myself” outside! LOL Best Wishes! Leigh
Thanks so much Leigh! I love that you “send yourself” outside for an attitude adjustment. 😊 I have to do the same thing sometimes. Blessings to you – sending hugs your way!
I loved this Terri, such a timely post. Just yesterday, I had to deal with an irate person at work and after they left I was feeling upset and stressed. But luckily, the place that I work has a beautiful, unobstructed, panoramic view of the mountains and the ocean. I stepped outside the office, walked up a 15 steps to a landing and soaked in the view. It was very calming and put me in a zen-like state where I took stock on life and all the beautiful things there are in this world. I was soon feeling a whole lot better. Such a poignant topic.
Thanks so much Mark, and thanks for sharing how being outside helped you at work! It’s so wonderful that you’re able to step outside and have that beautiful view. I’m so glad you were able to take advantage of it and use it to help you change perspective on things. Blessings to you my friend!
Oh yes Terri, getting out in nature especially along the waterfront is rejuvenating for my whole being.
I try to get out for a walk every second day if able 😊.
A great post, I loved seeing the Beavers handiwork as we don’t have Beaver’s here in Australia.
Isn’t walking by water just the best? There is nothing that soothes my soul quite like walking by the water and talking to my Heavenly Father. I’m glad you liked seeing the beavers’ handiwork. I would love to have seen the beavers, but a gentleman who was walking there said, “You have to come out at night to see them devils.”😂 Blessings to you sweet friend!
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