Instinctually, you know being outdoors makes you feel better and more full of life. By all accounts, you tend to feel happier, physically healthier and mentally sharper. But the great news is it’s not just a feeling, as the health benefits of being outdoors are backed by mountains of scientific research.
Indeed, taking part in new and time-honored outdoor activities tends to not only make us happier and healthier, but may also stymie depression and anxiety. Here are three science-backed reasons why being outside is good for your emotional, physical and spiritual health and well-being.
Study after study concludes being one with nature improves our overall mental well-being. In particular, researchers from the University of Essex have concluded spending as little as five minutes exercising in the presence of nature elevates self-esteem levels and increases one's mood.
For young people, just being outside can improve their outlook on life. Case in point: A poll by the Nature Conservancy revealed 90 percent of teens ages 13 to 18 feel less stressed when they spend more time outside versus inside playing video games or spending hours on their smartphone.
These findings hold similarly true for adults, too. In fact, even having office windows that allow employees to see their outdoor surroundings lowers workplace stress levels and increases overall job satisfaction.
Beyond promoting better overall well-being, being one with nature can lead to heightened intelligence levels, too. University of Michigan researchers found students who tend to get away from it all and spend more time in nature scored 20 percent better on a memory test compared to those who simply took a walk on a city street before taking the same test.
Ever find yourself stumped while watching the Fox game show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" Perhaps it's not only the academic rigor these kids are involved in every day, but also the amount of time they spend outside that keeps them sharp and focused. And experts tend to agree.
In fact, kids and teens who regularly participate in outdoor activities experience increased levels of academic focus. Similarly, a group of adults who took part in an expedition into the wilderness saw a 50 percent improvement on a problem-solving test compared to those who didn't participate. Indeed, the results demonstrate a cognitive advantage can be realized if we spend more time immersed in natural settings.
Catching a healthy amount of vitamin D from the sun is one of the most obvious health benefits of being outdoors — and its positive effects are numerous. In fact, beyond getting a nice tan, increasing our vitamin D intake can boost bone density and cell growth, reduce inflammation, and bolster our immune system.
Additionally, Ohio State University researchers have concluded just going outside can do so much good for the health of your eyes. In particular, people who spend two hours outside each day are four-times less likely to be nearsighted. The sun's rays can also provide increased regeneration powers, as University of Pittsburgh researchers have found patients who undergo spinal surgery tend to heal faster when exposed to natural light.
After arming you with the facts, you’re probably itching to explore nature and be on your way to better health and happiness. But before you head out, take a minute to ensure you’re prepared — both physically and mentally and that you have the right gear — for an outdoor adventure.
No matter your destination, make sure you have a stocked first-aid kit and the proper equipment for your activity. If you’re going hiking, bring plenty of water, snacks, rain gear and a good map of the area. In fact, AllTrails.com not only provides visitors with detailed trail maps, but is also a great resource to find trails that fit your ability and skill level.
Furthermore, if your trip includes rough or off-road terrain, be sure your tires can handle the route. For example, Falken Wildpeak tires are a great choice when driving over rough terrain due to their variable-pitch shoulder design. And thanks to their multi-wave lateral sipes, these tires can provide your ride with a better grip on slick roads.
Finding new outdoor activities will provide you with endless, fruitful options. Ultimately, however, it doesn't matter what you do — just get outside and enjoy the outdoors. Hear that? It's nature calling.