Doctors’ Orders, Go Outside

Now that the weather is getting balmier, it’s time to do what we should be doing all along when possible: Going outside.

Getting out has been shown in studies to improve mood and lower stress, increase energy levels and encourage people to exercise longer than they would have inside. It’s also the best way to get your vitamin D, hands-down.

These are some of the ways just stepping outside the door benefits your mental and physical health:

Reduces stress
Three Japanese agencies collaborated in 2019 to learn more about shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Spending time with the trees lowered participants’ cortisol (stress hormone) levels, pulse rates, blood pressure and fight-or-flight tendencies.

Lowers risk of depression
A Stanford-led study from 2015 reported people who spent 90 minutes walking in a natural environment reported significantly lower levels of rumination (repetitive, negative self-talk) and lower activity in a part of the brain that leads to rumination and a higher risk of depression.

Increases creativity
A University of Utah study of 56 hikers found those who spent four days in the wilderness and away from electronics scored 50% higher on a creativity test.

Helps vision
Being outside and looking at wide vistas has been shown in several studies to prevent or reduce nearsightedness in children and may have some benefit for adults.

Better immune response
A 2015 review of hundreds of studies linking better health to spending time outside found most benefits were linked to having an improved immune system, which is regenerated mostly during calm times of low stress.

Improves sleep
Several studies link spending time outside to better regulation of temperature and more function tied to circadian rhythms, both essential for quality sleep. A CDC survey found this was especially true for men and for people 65 and older.

Photo: Blushing Cactus Photography