Spring is upon us and it brings along warmer weather and more opportunities to get outside. While many would agree that spending time outdoors is enjoyable, some may be unaware that there is actual scientific evidence to support the idea that humans are drawn to nature and actually experience health benefits from being outside.
According to Oliver Sacks, a nuerologist and author, there is a calling within all of us to interact with nature. “Biophilia, the love of nature and living things, is an essential part of the human condition. Hortophilia, the desire to interact with, manage and tend nature, is also deeply
instilled in us.” [i]
Interacting with nature also has multiple health benefits for humans, with physicians stating that patients who spent time in nature experienced everything from increased attention spans to decreased pain after surgery. [ii] [v]
Below is a list of five health common benefits that can come from spending time in nature.
1. Increased Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is essential for a healthy body, as we need it for bone growth, cell growth, inflammation reduction and neuromuscular and immune system function.[iv]
Many of us don’t get enough Vitamin D from our diets, so the sun’s rays are our best source for keeping our Vitamin D levels high. Getting enough sunlight has also been shown to help prevent diabetes, autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease. [ii] Of course, sun exposure needs to be sensible, and you should always apply sunscreen 15 minutes before leaving to spend extensive time in sunlight.
2. Improved Sleep
Human sleep patterns are regulated by an internal clock called the “circadian rhythm,” and our circadian rhythms are naturally tied to the sun’s schedule. “Spending too much time inside – away from natural light and with increased exposure to artificial light, can alter our circadian rhythms, (thus disrupting our sleep patterns).” [ii]
Exposure to sunlight has been shown to help recalibrate circadian rhythms and improve sleep
3. Improved Eye Health
Research has found that outdoor activity may have a protective effect on the eyes and reduce the risk of developing nearsightedness (myopia), especially in children. [iii]
Many adults also suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), the term used to describe eye problems caused by staring at a screen close for prolonged periods of time. There are many symptoms associated with CVS such as blurred vision, double vision, dry/red eyes, eye irritation, headaches, and neck or back pain. Spending time outside can give your eyes a “break” from screens and can help prevent and even reverse these symptoms. [ii]
4. Lower blood pressure
Around 75 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure (that’s one in every three adults!) and spending time in nature may be a legitmate way to lower it. [vi]
Spending time outdoors usually invloves some form of activity, such as hiking or walking, and as such, those who spend more time outside have been found to have lower blood pressure rates than others. [iii]
High blood pressure can greatly increase risk for health problems such as heart disease and strokes. [vi] Getting outside and staying active could potentially decrease your blood pressure rates and your likehood of developing more serious health problems down the line.
5. Improved Physcological Health
Interacting with nature can also improve our mental health as well. Spending time outside has been shown to reduce stress and symptoms of it, lowering heartrate and cortisol levels-a hormone that is a hallmarker of stress. [iv]
“In addition to helping decrease stress levels, spending more time with nature shows a shift toward more positive moods.” [iv] Spending time in nature has also been linked to improved attention spans (both short and long term), boosts in serotonin, and increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love. [ii]
In one study, it was found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another study found that outdoor walks could be "useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments" for major depressive disorder. [iii]
Essentially, if you’re feeling down or stressed out, try spending some time outside this spring.
Ready to get outdoors? Visit: https://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation.aspx to find fun activities that will get you outdoors today! (Your body and mind may just thank you for it.)