The Benefits Of Being Outside - April 26, 2017 Newsletter

The Benefits Of Being Outside

EHE Newsletter, Volume 17, Number 49
April 26, 2017

With spring officially underway, it's time to get outdoors! Spending time outdoors is an excellent way to boost both your physical and mental health. Warmer weather can provide a kick–start to what may have become a stale, boring exercise routine over the winter months. It can also provide motivation for people who may have been inactive during the long cold winter. Being outdoors can also provide feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement. In fact, a review of research published in the October 2013 Annual Review of Environment and Resources found that the “balance of evidence indicates conclusively that knowing and experiencing nature makes us generally happier, healthier people.” So, put your cell phone down, turn off your tablet, close your laptop and enjoy the many benefits of being outside!

According to a review published in the January 3, 2013 Extreme Physiology & Medicine “outdoor natural environments may provide some of the best all-round health benefits by increasing physical activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion, altering physiological functioning including stress reduction, restoring mental fatigue, and improving mood and self-esteem and perceived health.”

Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

Studies consistently show that regular physical activity leads to positive health benefits. This is true no matter where exercise is performed however there are added benefits to an outdoor workout:

· Simply having access to an outdoor natural environment makes it more likely that people will exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , “Access to outdoor space is associated with initiating and maintaining physical activity and reducing obesity, especially when that space is well maintained, safe, and accessible and offers attractive facilities and programs.”

· Spring gives you an opportunity to break away from a routine, indoor gym workout and mix things up by bringing it outside. If you’ve been tackling the stair master, stationary bike or running on a treadmill all winter long, moving these activities outdoors can provide more variety to your workout and a change of scenery. When you run and bike outside you get to do so on uneven and varied surfaces--pavement, dirt paths, grassy trails, or a sandy beach--and a variety of inclines and declines so you go both up and downhill. This means you use muscle groups in different ways than you would on a stationary bike or while running on a treadmill. Air resistance is another benefit of doing these activities outdoors. Varying air resistance and varying terrain both demand greater engagement and effort. Varying scenery provides an antidote to the boredom of running or biking in place and may even result in an extended workout. Additionally, there is some evidence that when you run outdoors you work harder than you do on the treadmill. A study published in the May 2012 Gait Posture that asked people to run on an outdoor track and then match their speed on a treadmill, found that when running on the treadmill the participants ran significantly slower than they did outside even though they thought they were going just as fast.

· Exercising outdoors is good for your mental health too! A critical review , published in the February 3, 2011 issue of Environmental Science and Technology, found that, “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy.” Additionally, study participants found outdoor activity to be more fulfilling and enjoyable than indoor activity and it also increased their motivation to repeat the activity again at a later time.

· Exercising outdoors may also increase your life span. A study published in the July 21, 2012 issue of The Lancet found that physical inactivity shortens an individual’s life expectancy. A number of studies have shown that people who exercise outside are more likely to perform the activity again. Anything that encourages you to exercise and continue to do so helps contribute to your longevity.

· Exercising outdoors is also a great way to meet people. When you are outside at a park, nature trail or just taking a walk in your neighborhood you get a chance to connect with others in your community. According to the Dana Foundation , numerous studies suggest that staying socially connected helps to maintain mental sharpness and is an important aspect of cognitive health.

· Convenience is another benefit to exercising outdoors. While some gyms may be open 24 hours a day, it is still necessary to travel to and from it, which can eat up precious free time. When the warm weather of spring hits you can just step outside your door and go biking, running or take a brisk walk.

Exercising outdoors offers many benefits, but there are benefits to spending time outside that go beyond those derived from exercise.

Additional Benefits to Spending Time outdoors

Simply spending time outdoors can be good for you, even if you aren’t actively exercising.

· Being outside exposes the skin to sunlight which helps the body produce Vitamin D. Adequate levels of Vitamin D are important because it aids in the maintenance of normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, and helps to preserve bone health. It also serves functions in the body related to cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and inflammation reduction. Of course, it is important not to get too much sun because it can result in a number of health problems including skin cancer, so be sure to take sun safety precautions if you are going to spend more than 10-15 minutes outside.

· A systematic review published in the 2015 Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, found that just being surrounded by a natural environment makes people feel better. Specifically it found that there is “strong evidence for a positive association between the quantity of green space in people's living environment and perceived mental health and mortality due to all causes in general adult populations.” Further, “there is moderate evidence for a positive association between perceived general health and the quantity of green space around the residence.”

· When you spend time outside disconnected from technology, you have a chance to reconnect with nature and increase mindfulness. Regularly doing things as simple as walking barefoot in the grass or dipping your toes in the ocean and focusing on the sights, sounds and smells that surround you, can lead to the reduction of everyday stress levels as well as improved concentration, productivity, and an overall sense of wellbeing.

What is the Bottom Line?

Scientific evidence tells us that spending time outdoors is beneficial to both your mind and body. Now that spring is here, take the opportunity to find out for yourself! Take a walking or biking tour of your town or city; go for a run; play tennis; use your lunch hour from work to sit on a park bench, eat lunch and enjoy the sunshine; or just sit outside after dinner with your family or friends and enjoy each other's company. What are you waiting for!

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MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The information is not intended to constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for consultation with a physician or other healthcare provider. Individuals with specific complaints should seek immediate consultation from their personal physicians.

Source - EHE

EHE International