Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

SBM: health-benefits-of-being-outdoors

Jay Maddock, PhD - Texas A&M University; Natalia Heredia, PhD, MPH - UTHealth Houston School of Public Health


We’ve all had that experience of feeling happy and relaxed watching a beautiful sunset or listening to birds sing. Did you know that spending time in nature can actually improve your health?

Studies have shown that being out in natural environments can reduce blood pressure and symptoms of ADHD. Time spent outdoors can also improve eyesight, immune function, and mood. Spending time in nature can also increase physical activity and reduce stress.  Many of the health benefits of being outdoors can be felt after just two hours a week spent in nature. Despite all of these positive effects of nature, Americans spend more than 90% of their time indoors.

Luckily, there are many ways to incorporate nature walks and time spent outdoors into your day. While immersive experiences like spending a week in a national park, have long lasting effects on the immune system, demonstratable improvements in health have been shown with less intensive changes. Even having a view out of a window or natural light in the workspace can make a difference. Here are some tips to get more nature into your life and feel the health benefits of being outdoors.

How to Enjoy the Many Health Benefits of Nature:

  1. Consider walking meetings. Many of us spend hours a day in meetings. Take one or two of these outside. Spending time in nature has been shown to increase creativity, improve mood and restore attention- something that every meeting could use.
  2. Brighten up your space with plants. Adding plants to your indoor space can keep you connected to nature. They also provide oxygen and other chemicals that enrich the air of indoor environments.
  3. Take your workout outside. While physical activity on its own is great for us, working out in nature can give us double benefits. Running through the forest or doing calisthenics in the park are great ideas.
  4. Try a nature scavenger hunt. This is a great way to get children into nature- and get more steps into the day. Just make a list of things that can be found in your nearby environment, from rocks and sticks to earthworms and dragonflies. There are many things that can be found close to home.
  5. Go geocaching. This is a great idea for older children and tweens. Download one of many free apps and login. These will give you GPS coordinates and clues to finding a secret cache. This can be a fun activity to connect to nature while you are travelling.
  6. Plan an outdoor adventure. There are great public parks throughout the country. One of our favorite activities is to plan a weekend hiking excursion followed by a trip to a craft brewery or local restaurant.

Whatever you do, find something that you love. From micro-doses of nature like a potted plant to macro-doses in national parks, it all adds up to a healthier you.

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