Few areas are as well-positioned as Greater Prescott for year-round outdoor recreation. Its four mild seasons allow us to get outside nearly every day of the year, and the boundless natural beauty surrounding us gives us all kinds of fantastic places to exercise, play and learn.
by Dr. Hojat Askari, Founder & Medical Director, Thumb Butte Medical Center
W ay beyond the fun factor, enjoying outdoor activities spurs benefits that bolster us long after we’ve been gallivanting in the forest, on the trail or in the park. Our lives get longer, fuller and healthier from the time we spend outside.
Time spent outdoors has been linked in many studies to a higher-functioning immune system from vitamin D and plant-produced phytoncides. People tend to be more physically active outside in nature due to boosted energy and a perception of the exertion as less strenuous. It improves children’s vision and helps prevent vision loss in adults.
The causes and symptoms of inflammation, which increase your risk for heart disease and cancer, are reduced by going outside. Also, being “out there” feeds into your circadian rhythms and promotes better sleep at night.
Outdoor sports and competitions build connections between players, their families and the community around them. Taking part in outdoor activities makes it easier to meet other people, whether you’re walking the dog, helping to clean up a park or hiking Thumb Butte for the 25th time. The quality of family time also is greatly improved.
Stress and anxiety are reduced by exposure to the sun and fresh air, which helps you distance yourself from the pressures of daily life. Your mood is improved as your brain releases more endorphins and symptoms of depression are reduced. The outdoors is a great place to practice mindfulness, which helps us relax in the moment and regain our focus.
Spending time outdoors in nature, especially away from electronic screens, improves your creativity for other tasks. Taking walks in the countryside has been shown to enhance short-term memory in ways other kinds of walks don’t. Outdoor play is especially important for kids because it helps develop executive function — the ability to plan, prioritize, negotiate and exhibit self-control.