Sara Middleton via NaturalHealth365 – You might not need scientific research to know that being outdoors and surrounded by nature is good for your well-being. In fact, the health benefits of nature have been widely accepted as part of individual and public health measures since the 19th century, and likely long before, in other ancient cultures.
But thanks to the pandemic – which has driven millions of Americans indoors and created a fear over even outdoor dining … many of us could use extra motivation to get outside (yes, even with colder temperatures and shorter days). Having said that, recent data revealed in a meta-analysis could be just what we need to remind us all to step back into nature more often.
Get into “Green Space” to Experience the Many Health Benefits of Immersing in Nature
In October 2018, the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research published a systematic review and meta-analysis of over 140 studies. These studies – 103 of which were observational, the rest interventional – assessed the relationship between so-called “green space exposure” to nature and human wellness. The meta-analysis included over 290 million participants from 20 countries, including the US, the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Australia, and Japan. (Japan, for example, is well-known for its cultural practice of shinrin yoku or “forest bathing.”)
The researchers define green space as “open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation.” Included in this definition are both natural landscapes as well as city parks and even tree-lined streets.
Unfortunately, as the researchers note, there are now fewer and fewer “opportunities for human contact with nature.” This statement especially holds true here in the United States, where many Americans rarely take the opportunity to get outside, thanks to the sedentary, indoors-centric slant of modern lifestyles plus the rising number of people living in urban environments.
But according to this and other research, there are plenty of reasons to buck the trend and get your family outside surrounded by nature. In fact, based on their compiled and analyzed data, researchers concluded that spending time in nature or green space significantly reduces the risk of these five issues:
- High blood pressure
- Death from cardiovascular disease
- Death from all causes
Being outside has also been suggested to improve birth outcomes (e.g., reduced risk of preterm delivery) and enhanced sleep quality and duration. More recent research from PLOS One even found that nature exposure boosts creativity and problem-solving by 50 percent!
So, Why Are the Great Outdoors So Great for Us? Here Are the Leading Reasons…
There’s still a lot to learn about why nature is so beneficial for human health. But there are a few things that researchers know:
- When you’re outside, you’re exposed to a wide range of bacteria – this natural exposure to different organisms could help strengthen your immune system.
- Science has shown that spending time in nature decreases circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol and is, therefore, an important tool in the fight against the damaging effects of long-term stress and chronic inflammation.
- Being outside promotes the opportunity for socialization (picnic in the park, anyone?)
- Being outside tends to go hand-in-hand with physical activity, including walking, hiking, and other athletic activities.
Pandemic or otherwise, it’s simply in your best interest to spend more time outdoors. And at a moment when having a healthy immune system is more important than ever, we encourage you to get your whole family some quality time in nature and enjoy what the natural world has to offer you.