Benefits Of Being Outside In Nature
One key to a healthy life, may be exposure on a regular basis, to nature.
How ofter are you able to walk in a park, woods or forest? A study published in the journal Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine in 2010 contrasted two groups of research participants; one group walked in a city environment and one group walked in a forest. The group who walked in the forest had lower readings on their blood pressure and also demonstrated lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who walked in the city environment.
The Japanese have a wonderful term for spending time in the woods called shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ and this study backs that up. Japanese researchers at Chiba University asked 84 subjects to walk in seven different forests, while another group of the same number were asked to walk around city centers. The forest walkers showed a 16% decrease in cortisol (stress hormone), a 2% drop in blood pressure, and a 4% drop in heart rate.
Environmental psychologist Stephen Kaplan and his colleagues found that a 50- minute walk in an arboretum, an area of trees, improved executive attention skills like short-term memory, while walking along a city street did not.
Plants give off airborne natural chemicals called phytoncides. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Our bodies, respond to these by increasing in the number and activity of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell. One study showed that an increased natural killer cells activity from a three day forest trip, lasted for more than 30 days.
In 2009, a team of Dutch researchers found that people who lived within around half mile of green space had a lower incidence of 15 diseases.
Richard Louv, who is a journalist and the author of nine books on the importance of the natural world to our health and well-being, also coined a term. He calls the lack of exposure to the natural world ‘nature-deficit disorder’ and he says: “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
- Maday Labrador