Tired of feeling like a squirrel trapped inside a concrete jungle? Ready to step out and reap the rewards of spending more time outdoors? If you haven’t noticed, nature has much to offer—from reducing stress and anxiety to improving your physical health. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of spending time outdoors and show how to incorporate outdoor activities into your routine, even if you’re a self-proclaimed couch potato. So grab your hiking boots, and let’s take a walk on the wild side!
Nature and Mental Health
Spending time in nature through outdoor activities has long been known as a way of improving our physical and mental well-being. Now research is proving it. Studies show that the more outdoor activities we engage in, the lower our stress levels, the better our brain function, and the brighter our moods. Outdoor activities give opportunities to engage in physical movement and connect with other people, both essential to good health.
Let’s now delve into some specific benefits of spending time outside and why you should be planning more time in nature.
Benefits of Nature
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep. Research has shown that spending time in nature can increase the production of serotonin in the brain.
One study found that spending time in a forest led to a significant increase in serotonin levels in participants. The study also found that the effect was greater in people under higher stress levels at the beginning of the study. Another study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health examined the effects of forest therapy, which involves spending time in natural environments, on people with depression. The study found that forest therapy led to a significant increase in serotonin levels and reduced depressive symptoms.
These studies suggest that spending time in natural environments can increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can help improve mood and combat symptoms of anxiety and depression. Other research sheds light on the benefits of outdoor activities regarding cognitive enhancement. One study found that you are likely to experience enhanced brain function after just 20 minutes of walking in a natural environment compared with an urban environment. The study’s authors concluded that switching from an urban to a natural exercise environment provides a mental break while improving cognitive abilities.
Exercising outdoors rather than indoors has also been shown to increase energy levels. According to Pretty et al. (2005), “green exercise” is defined as physical activity that takes place in natural settings like parks, woods, and other green spaces. After conducting a comprehensive assessment of prior research on the subject, the researchers discovered that engaging in green exercise was linked to several advantageous effects, including increased energy. In particular, they discovered that exercising in natural spaces was more effective in boosting energy levels than exercising inside or in urban settings.
Fun Outdoor Activities for Adults
Now that we’ve established the many benefits of spending time in nature, here are four great outdoor activities that we know you’ll really enjoy:
Hiking: Hiking is a fantastic way to soak up the natural environment while exploring your local area. It can involve anything from walking an east trail to climbing a mountain, so it can be as challenging as you want. You’ll experience the exhilaration of the fresh air, beautiful scenery, and wildlife as you improve your fitness level.
Kayaking or Canoeing: Kayaking or canoeing is a fun and relaxing water activity that delivers an effective workout. You can explore your local waterways, including lakes, rivers, and streams, as you get up close and personal with nature. Whether solo or with friends, this is a great way to de-stress and unwind.
Biking: If you’re used to biking on an exercise bicycle in the gym, why not try the real thing out in nature? This low-impact form of cardio provides an excellent opportunity to explore the great outdoors and soak in the fresh air and sun’s rays. Biking can also be a fun social activity, providing opportunities to meet new people.
Outdoor Yoga: Practicing yoga outdoors can be a refreshing and rejuvenating experience. It allows you to connect with nature, breathe in fresh air, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors. Whether practicing yoga in a park, on a beach, or in your backyard, it’s a great way to improve flexibility, reduce stress, and increase mindfulness.
Now that there’s a raft of research to support the benefits of spending time in nature, we should all aim to spend more time on outdoor activities. Why not make it your goal to try at least one of our suggested outdoor activities over the next couple of weeks? Maybe you could aim to try them all in the next two months. Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with at least one of them, and it becomes your new outdoor activity obsession!