Getting back to nature
Health Insurance Insights | 04-22-19

Getting back to nature

Research suggests that spending time outside can function as natural medicine. It can help improve your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Spending more time outdoors is also linked to a lower risk of early death. Besides helping you live a longer, healthier life, spending time in nature can help you live a happier life too.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average modern American spends 93% of their life indoors, and only 7% of the time outside. In fact, according to a Yale study, over half (56%) of Americans spend less than 5 hours a week, or 3% of their time outside. It is increasingly clear that we are an indoor culture and it may be affecting our health as a society.

Research suggests that spending time outside can function as a natural medicine. It can help improve your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Spending more time outdoors is also linked to a lower risk of early death. Besides helping you live a longer, healthier life, spending time in nature can help you live a happier life too.

We know that modern-day life can make it difficult to spend time outdoors. With careers, children, and other responsibilities taking a large share of our time, and the fact that population growth has made accessing the outdoors more difficult than ever, know that even small, five-minute outdoor breaks can have a positive impact on your health. Keep reading to learn about some of the amazing health benefits of spending time outdoors. Plus, we include a few tips to help you get outside more often!

Happiness

If you have ever sensed a feeling of awe or euphoria while walking through nature, you are not alone. Research supports the idea that spending time outside makes you happy. Being in the park reduces blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with negative thought patterns. Many other studies have also shown that our moods take a positive shift when we spend time outside. Research also suggests that spending time in nature can also reduce the risk of developing depression and anxiety – and even help improve symptoms.

Improved memory

Are you struggling to remember simple things? Again, you may want to go find a nice trail to walk on. Studies have found that spending time in nature like a walk in the woods or just sitting in a park can help improve memory functions – especially short-term memory. Research from the University of Michigan found that seeing scenes of nature helped improve both memory and attention span.

Stress relief

Spending time outside has been shown to lower stress levels and has similar effects on your brain and body as that of meditating. In a study of natural stress relieving factors, researchers found a decrease in both the heart rates and levels of cortisol of participants who spent time in the forest compared to those in the city. Although the exact reasoning for this is unclear, being in a natural setting shows evidence of lower stress levels through a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure.

Reduced inflammation

When you suffer from inflammation, it can wreak havoc on your body. Inflammation is associated with a wide range of ills, including autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and cancer. Spending time in nature may be one way to help keep that in check.

Spending more time outside could help naturally reduce pain! A 2012 study found that students who were asked to spend time immersed in the forest had lower levels of inflammation than their counterparts who spent time in the city.

Energy boost

According to research from the University of Rochester, 90% of people experience increased energy just by participating in outdoor activities over indoor activities. This boost of sudden energy can help you stay focused and creative throughout the day.

Stronger immune system

Becoming one with nature might have some amazing effects on your immune system. Adults who hiked twice a day for three days increased their white blood cell count by 40% which can protect the body from a multitude of diseases and being outside can also decrease your chances of getting certain cancers although the research on this is still in its early stages.

Better Vision

At least in children, a fairly large body of research has found that outdoor activity may have a protective effect on the eyes and reduce the risk of developing nearsightedness.

In Taiwan, researchers studied two nearby schools where myopia was equally common. They told one school to encourage outdoor activity during recess and monitored the other as a control. After one year, the rate of myopia in the control school was 17.65%; in the "play outside" school, it was just 8.41%.

Spending more time outside is arguably one of the easiest ways to improve your health and wellness. Now that it’s finally warm outside, we challenge you to spend at least 15 minutes every weekday and one hour each day of the weekend outside. Start tracking the amount of time you spend outside each day, and see if you feel healthier and happier!

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