Get Outside for Health Benefits
Exposure to nature has been shown to improve psychological well-being, relieve stress, increase positive mood, enhance life skills, reduce mental fatigue, increase concentration, and reduce aggression. There is growing evidence that contact with nature and physical activity in nature have considerable benefits for human health.
One study sought to identify the mental, emotional, and social well-being benefits of participating in-group walks in natural settings. Participating in the walks were associated with significantly lower rates of depression, perceived stress, and negative affect, as well as enhanced positive affect and mental well-being, both before and after controlling for other variables. In addition, nature-based group walks appear to mitigate the effects of stressful life events on perceived stress while synergizing with physical activity to improve mental well-being.
After 13 weeks, those who walked at least once a week experienced positive emotions and less stress. Researchers recommend walking outside in nature at least three times a week to experience benefits. Short, frequent jaunts are more beneficial than long, occasional walks.
In another study, focus was on adolescent health changes associated with participation in an outdoor behavioral healthcare program. The sample was grouped by body mass index (BMI) categories of underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese to discern the physiological changes across these categories because of time spent outdoors. In addition, this study tested for gender differences and differences based on season.
On average, adolescent participants moved toward healthier body compositions from intake to discharge. Specifically, underweight participants gained a significant amount of weight, predominantly composed of lean mass. Normal-weight participants stayed at approximately the same weight but gained lean mass and lost fat. Overweight and obese participants lost significant amounts of weight. No differences by season or between the genders across seasons were observed.
Want to improve your health? Getting outside and exploring the natural world is a healthy option for everyone.