by Leah Payne May 27, 2014
Sure, it’s nice to spend time in nature when we get the chance. But is it that important? According to many new studies—yes, it is. Some researchers believe that being outdoors in nature may even be essential for our good health. Here are seven benefits of spending time in the great outdoors.
1. Better overall health and quality of life
A Danish study that investigated the associations between green space and health found a link between distance to green space and health-related quality of life. The researchers believe that green spaces may help manage stress.
2. An immune system boost
In a 2011 study, researchers found that visiting a forest—but not a city—enhances natural killer (NK) cell activity. Moreover, further visits to the forest maintained a higher level of NK cell activity. Natural killer cells are a type of white blood cell that’s a key component of a healthy immune system.
3. Lowered stress and lowered blood pressure
Forest bathing (or Shinrin-yoku) is a Japanese term for taking in the atmosphere of the forest. New research is showing that the traditional art has real, measurable health benefits. One study, for instance, found that spending time in forest environments help to lower the stress hormone cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate.
4. Increased physical activity
Strange but true: having green space nearby leads people to be more physically active—even if they’re not using that green space for their physical activity. This is what a 2012 study based in Britain discovered.
5. A boost in mental health
Distance to useable green space also has another advantage: it’s thought to provide a boost in mental health, being associated with decreased anxiety and mood disorder treatment.
6. Better cardiovascular health
Have green space in one’s neighbourhood is linked to better cardiovascular health, according to a 2013 study from New Zealand. This study also confirmed the link between green space and physical activity.
7. Increased creativity and problem-solving skills
Want to be more creative? Spend more time in nature! In this 2012 study, hikers were found to have a big time cognitive advantage in a creative, problem solving task after immersion in nature for four days.
Finding it tricky to plan nature into your day? Here are some ideas:
- See how many tree and flower varieties you can name.
- Have a picnic!
- Bring binoculars and see how many birds you can spot.
- Host a “walking meeting” at work.
- Take your lunch break outside.
- Take your workout outdoors.
- Fly a kite, play horseshoes, or toss around a Frisbee.
- Sketch a landscape.
- Get dirty in the garden.