In today’s world of powerful technology, many people feel the urge to simplify and get back to nature. To experience the health benefits of outdoor recreation, it’s necessary to unplug and recharge in the wilderness. Those who are able to soak up everything nature has to offer find out why being outside is important—it comes down to health.
Long before smartphones and self-driving cars, Japan deemed “forest bathing” an essential part of its national health program. With forest bathing, the soaking isn’t literal. Bathing takes on a new meaning—immersing yourself in the natural environment.
The concept stems from Japanese Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy, and goes back to 1982. Over three decades later, the goal of forest bathing is still to reintroduce people to the healing power of nature. Much study and research has confirmed what the Japanese have long believed—nature benefits wellbeing in many ways.
There are so many ways you can take advantage of the benefits of nature. We’ll leave the how to you—hint: it starts with putting down your phone and experiencing the outdoors.
We’ll supply the why. Here are 10 reasons why being outside is important to improving the health of you and your family.
1. Improved fitness
This is an obvious one: spending time outdoors typically involves some kind of physical movement, and therefore results in increased fitness, stamina, and endurance. But think about it this way – is there a more enjoyable way to get your workout in than climbing a mountain, or walking in a forest? Exercising in nature is definitely easier on the eyes (and nose) than the inside of a sweaty gym, and generally a lot more fun.
2. Decreased inflammation and strengthened immune system
It may seem counter-intuitive, but immersing yourself in the elements has been proven to boost immune system function and lower levels of inflammation in the body. So, when flu season rolls around, and everyone around you is coming down with a bug, you’re going to be thanking yourself for all those summer hikes you took. Indeed, some researchers have even linked time spent outdoors to a decreased incidence of chronic illness and diseases like cancer!
3. Vitamin D exposure
Most people can agree that there’s no feeling quite like that of sunlight hitting your skin, and this very process is the catalyst for the creation and activation of Vitamin D in our bodies. While almost everyone is aware of the risks of too much sun exposure, few people know that sun deprivation is actually just as dangerous to our bodies. Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones and tissue, and can fight off a number of health conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks.
4. Improved vision
A major focus of recent medical research has been the ever-increasing rates of myopia, or poor vision, in children. A host of studies have linked this increase to too much time spent indoors. Not only this, but research has also shown that spending time outside, in nature, can not only slow the progression of poor vision, but can actually reverse the process of vision degeneration.
5. Strengthen Immunity
Staying indoors can have a negative impact on your immune health. The immune system works best when challenged regularly. That doesn’t happen when we spend time indoors.
Healthy doses of nature will help prepare your body fight. Here’s how it works.
A study published in 2010 evaluated the effect of forest bathing on immune function. For a group of Japanese adults, a three-day trip to the forest increased the number of white blood cells in their blood. These levels of white blood cells stayed elevated for more than 30 days after their adventure in the woods. White blood cells are crucial to your immune system. They help your body battle germs by recognizing pathogens and harmful intruders with the help of antibodies.
The boost in immunity from a trip into nature can help keep you feeling healthy. For active adults and growing children, increased immunity is a valuable asset in a healthy lifestyle. Strengthening your body’s natural germ-fighting power with a regular trip into the wild.
6. Better Your Short-Term Memory
Nature could be the answer to remembering names, not forgetting your keys, and taking better notes in class. There is growing evidence that both short-term and working memory can be improved by time spent outside.
At the University of Michigan, a simple experiment backed this theory. Two groups of students were given a memory test and then assigned to take a walk through a garden or down a city street. After their walks, the participants performed the memory test again. Those who walked through the garden improved their scores by 20 percent. No consistent improvement was observed in the participants who walked in the city.
Natural scenery and garden views calm our minds and help us focus. Urban settings are full of traffic, street noise, lights, and lots of people. These things pull our attention in several directions. This makes it hard to sharpen our focus and recall things we just learned. Pondering new information in a peaceful, natural setting may help enhance your short-term memory.
7. Environmental awareness
Most of us are all too aware of the massive and diverse environmental threats facing our planet today, but feel powerless in making a substantive or meaningful impact. It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re cooped up inside, or to forget just how important it is to tirelessly work to protect our natural surroundings.
Spending time outdoors is a constant reminder of just how incredible our planet is, and a hike or walk in nature is often the best source of motivation to make a difference.
Get Healthy, Get Outdoors
Find time today to venture outside and take advantage of the health benefits of the outdoors. Replace time spent inside on electronic devices with a bike ride or a walk to a local park. Take up forest bathing or gardening as a new hobby. And remember outdoor recreation can be enjoyed alone or as a family.
There’s no wrong way to get outside and so much to be gained by exploring the natural world. You know why being outside is important. It’s time to reconnect with nature. Your body and mind will thank you for it later.