We have spent a lot of time discussing many of the various ways we can effectively improve our overall health and well being, from eating the proper, well-balanced, nutritional foods, to getting ample and restful sleep, to getting moderate exercise, and on and on. But, there’s one area we’ve spent little time on, is the relationship between nature and human beings and exercise, the Benefits In Being In Nature, and why that relationship should be vitally important to all of us.
Here is Wikipedia’s definition of nature:
Nature in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, and material word, or the universe. Nature can refer to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. Although, humans are part of nature, human activity is often understood as a separate category from other natural phenomena.
But seriously, are humans really separate from nature? We happen to think no! For more information from Wikipedia on nature read here.
Healthy Benefits Of Nature
Most of us intuitively sense that taking a walk on a wooded trail is good for us. We take a break from the rush of our 24-7 modern lives to re-center and relax. We enjoy the awe, beauty, and peace in being in a natural setting. But, did you know, that the latest research like a 2018 University of East Anglia study is finding spending time outside in nature, like visiting a forest, or being on the ocean, has real quantifiable health and well being benefits.
The new report reveals that exposure to green space reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Think of it as a medical prescription that is not only free, but can be fun, and has no negative side effects.
The feelings of peace, relaxation, and tranquility, and the generally feeling of being “more alive”, that come from spending time in nature are so obvious, that they’ve been measured and confirmed by science numerous times. One 2010 University of Rochester study confirmed this being more “Alive” notion or a perceived sense of increased vitality. Everything from a short visit to a park, to a long camping trip in the wilderness, can benefit not only our physical and psychological health, but every aspect of our life.
For example, spending several hours in a forest and breathing the forest air, gives an impressive boost to the immune system, including increasing natural killer cell activity by 50 percent which improves your immune system’s capacity to detect and eliminate cancerous cells and cells infected with viruses and other harmful invaders, found a 2018 Oncotarget study reviewed by the NIH.
Here is the way that occurs. Plants expel air-borne chemicals called phytoncides, which are natural repellents against insects. Phytoncides have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, which help plants fight off insects and disease. When humans breathe in these chemical phytoncides, our bodies respond by our immune system kicking in, increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cells, called natural killer cells, as referenced by a Science Daily review. These special white blood cells kill off tumors and virus-infected cells. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
In Japan for example, “forest therapy”, called “Shinrinyoku” in Japanese, is a short, leisurely visit to a forest. It is regarded as being similar to natural aromatherapy and has been used for decades to combat the negative effects of urban life, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH).
This involves spending extended time, anywhere from several hours to several days, in a forest setting and engaging in specific timed activities such as walking, lying on the ground, and slow, deep breathing. Shinrinyoku has been used for decades to combat the negative effects of urban life.
According to NIH research when a forest trip involving 13 nurses was increased to three-days long, the results showed that natural killer cell activity, the number of natural killer cells, and intracellular anti-cancer protein levels remain elevated, for at least seven days after the trip was over. That means an extended weekend of camping could continue benefiting you long after you’re back at work.
What about if you only have time to sit under a tree on your lunch breaks? DO IT, it really works! It turns out that nature has such a powerful effect on your health that spending as little as thirty minutes per week, in a green space, can reduce your high blood pressure and depression by 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively, according to the Nature Scientific Report. The more time spent in nature per week, the lower the risk, but even short visits, like just sitting under a tree, are worth it.
When we change the green of the forest for the blue of the ocean, the benefits remain the same, especially for mental and emotional well-being. One NIH study found that when people with psychological distress were exposed to either negative air ionization in a natural park or an ocean beach for a period of three-and-half hours, they experienced significant drops in their Total Mood Disturbance scores (TMD), suggesting a major improvement in psychological health in lower depression scores.
The study also determined that future research is needed to evaluate the biological plausibility of this association. When exposed to a city environment, the participants’ feelings of distress didn’t diminish.
Overall, a connection to nature, in all of its various forms, appears to boost memory and concentration, improve longevity, relieve stress, lower inflammation, enhance creativity, improve focus, support immune function, reduce risk of chronic disease, such as cancer and heart disease, improve symptoms of mental illness, and help you get more restful sleep.
One 2018 Frontiers In Medicine study reviewed by the NIH determined that healthcare professionals must advocate for an anti-inflammatory lifestyle at the patient level as well as at the local and national levels to enhance population health and well-being. Did you know that just looking at pictures of nature can brings attention restoration, particularly in elderly individuals per an NIH study. According to a major NIH study time spent in and around tree-lined streets, gardens, parks, and forested and agricultural lands is consistently linked to objective, long-term health outcomes.
The less green a person’s surroundings, the higher their risk of morbidity and mortality even when controlling for socioeconomic status and other possible confounding variables. Quoting the study:
The range of specific health outcomes tied to nature is startling, including depression and anxiety disorder, diabetes mellitus, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), various infectious diseases, cancer, healing from surgery, obesity, birth outcomes, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal complaints, migraines, respiratory disease, and others. Finally, neighborhood greenness has been consistently tied to life expectancy and all-cause mortality.
Remarkably, children with ADHD, showed significantly improvement in focusing and concentration, when spending time out in a natural setting according to another NIH review. Does it sound too good to be true? This time, it is true!
Getting Out There
For some of us, walking in nature is just another form of exercise, although maybe it’s a little more interesting than walking in place on a treadmill. So it might come as a surprise that walking in nature is a great deal more beneficial than walking indoors or in a city, and the benefits extend far beyond fitness. That’s why it is important to truly understand the benefits of physical activity and why you should do it in a natural setting.
Compared to a similar stroll in an urban setting, a fifty-minute walk in nature has been shown to decrease anxiety, reduce rumination, lower negative self-perception affect, improve positive mood like joy, improve symptoms of major depressive disorder, and even offer cognitive benefits, such as boosting working memory performance.
In other studies, a 90-minute walk in nature has been shown to reduce neural activity in brain areas linked with mental illness, whereas, a 90-walk in a city setting, showed no positive change. Nature walks of 90-minutes also appear to lower blood pressure and adrenaline, increase energy, mood, and vigor, and a decrease in fatigue, confusion, anxiety, and depression according to a Harvard Medical School study.
Don’t have the time? Even short nature walks can boost your well-being. In one study, a fifteen-minute stroll through a rural park resulted in significantly lower heart rate, lower sympathetic nerve activity, which is the fight-or-fight response, and higher parasympathetic nerve activity, which is the rest response, than a similar walk through the city, per a Environmental Psychology study.
Likewise, participants reported feeling “comfortable,” “relaxed,” “natural,” and “vigorous” after their nature walks and exhibited significantly lower levels of anxiety and negative emotions. These benefits occurred no matter what the season, even during the cold winter months.
Out In Nature Therapy
Nature-related therapies are emerging as promising ways to manage stress and boost both physical and psychological health. In Sweden, for example, nature-related rehabilitation programs are being used to help people with stress-related mental disorders recover from burnout, depression, and anxiety. The NIH review results showed decreased scores on burnout, depression and anxiety, and increased well-being scores and significantly reduced health care utilization in the nature-based-rehabilitation group.
A huge body of literature supports the theory that for men and women across a wide range of ages, whether they are healthy, or at risk of, or experiencing chronic disease, forest therapy has wide-ranging impacts and benefits on health. Forest therapy reduces harmful cortisol levels, lowers heart rate, increases positive physical and emotional feelings, lessens negative feelings, improves cognitive function, and measurably reduces oxidation stress from free-radical damage, and chronic inflammation found another NIH review.
The results suggested that techniques designed to eliminate negative thought loops can have important positive effects on stress, emotions and key physiological systems by reducing cortisol levels. The implications are that relatively inexpensive interventions may dramatically and positively impact individuals’ health and well-being. Thus, individuals may have greater control over their minds, bodies and health than previously suspected.
A Chiba University in Japan study reviewed by the NIH, of four-hundred-twenty people found that after engaging in forest therapy, cortisol levels dropped by an average of 12.4 percent, sympathetic nervous activity dropped by 7 percent, systolic blood pressure decreased by 1.4 percent, heart rate dropped by 5.8 percent, and parasympathetic nervous activity, indicating reaching a relaxed state, increased by an incredible 55 percent. Pretty amazing statistics, don’t you think?
For people with borderline hypertension, participating in outdoor therapy, helped restore blood pressure to the optimal range, potentially preventing the condition from progressing to clinical hypertension. And for elderly patients with confirmed high blood pressure, a seven-day forest therapy trip resulted in lower inflammation and the inhibition of the renin-angiotension system, which are complex hormones involved in blood pressure regulation, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
61 individuals with chronic widespread pain saw significant relief from their pain, as well as associated physical and psychological symptoms, following a two-day “forest Bathing” therapy camping trip. Confirming the pain-relieving benefits associated with forest therapy study,
These results support the hypothesis that forest therapy is an effective intervention to relieve pain and associated psychological and physiological symptoms in individuals with chronic widespread pain.
And on top of all that, the physiological effects of forest therapy have included improved immune function and even a protective effect against cancer. Positive results have also been realized from health improvements in individuals with various illnesses and surgery recuperation times. Scientific America has an interesting study called “How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal”, showing the incredible benefits of just simple things in nature like a flower can reduce pain and stress, and even reduce recovery times, in people that are ill or recovering.
Other forms of nature-based therapy have had a positive effect on human health. Horticultural therapy, in which gardening is used to improve mental and/or physical well-being, shows potential as a mental health intervention, as well as, for the management and prevention of chronic diseases.
Within the scientific literature, gardening consistently leads to so many different benefits such as better life satisfaction, stronger sense of community, improved cognitive function, more vigor, reduced stress and anxiety, less fatigue, less anger, reduced depression symptoms, lower BMI, greater overall happiness, and a feeling of being needed, just to name a few examples, according to an NIH meta-analysis of 22 case studies.
The study provided robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening on health and it was determined that a regular dose of gardening can improve public health. A systematic review, like this 2014 Complementary Therapy Medicine reviewed by the NIH, of horticultural therapy trials found that gardening may be an effective treatment for a variety of mental and behavioral disorders, including dementia, depression, and schizophrenia, and can have a positive effect on terminal cancer care.
Wilderness, or outback therapy, which is basically “roughing-it” out in nature, is another form of nature-based therapy with impressive and sometimes life-changing, benefits. Wilderness therapy involves excursions into the outdoors, typically with activity-based challenges and group, or individual therapy, as a way to address mental, relational, and behavioral problems as discussed in this paper from Elizabeth Freeman and Leeds University. This form of therapy has been used to help at-risk youth, victims of rape or abuse, and survivors of other forms of trauma, with documented success, found Neal Christensen, Ph.D., in his research “Healing Sexual Trauma in the Wilderness”.
So how can you obtain these many benefits of nature for yourself? One way to get the most out of your connection with nature, is to be mindful, by re-centering yourself and relaxing, by taking a minute to acknowledge sensations. You may stop and think about the feeling of the air on your skin, the scents you smell, the colors and organic shapes you see, the sounds you hear, and the surrounding textures.
For example, according to the American Psychological Association (APA) the more closely researchers look, the more evidence they find that odors hold sway over our emotions, our cognition, and even our health. In addition to helping us navigate our social world, smell may join with sight and sound to help us make our way in the physical world as well. According to a 2016 PLOS/ONE study nature engagement improves our sense of well being.
This is called “being-in-the-present-moment”. (1)It is a form of meditation. You may take a minute to put your hands in the dirt, or feel the soft moss, or let sand run through your fingers. You may take off your shoes and feel the ground beneath your feet, making a mental note of whether it feels hard or soft, cool or warm, damp or dry.
According to numerous research, like this NIH study, being “grounded” (bare footed on nature’s earth) has shown that reconnection with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being. Earthing (or grounding) refers to the discovery of benefits, including better sleep and reduced pain. Clearly, everyone’s access to nature is different, but it should be pretty obvious to you by now, that making room in your busy schedule to be out in nature, should be a priority.
Check out these articles on other nature activities with tremendous health benefits:
Exercise And The Outdoors
You know the importance of physical activity in maintaining your overall health and well being and it’s well-documented, and that’s the major Benefits In Being In Nature. Being out in nature, and exposure to sunlight, combined with physical activity, not only replinishes vitamin D levels which are vital to your health, but also increases serotonin levels, which can improve the feelings of happiness and well being, per a 2016 PLOS/ONE study. Serotonin is a mood-enhancing chemical, and a deficiency in it, has been linked to fatigue, anxiety, impaired cognitive function, and depression, found a 2008 Indian Journal of Psychiatry reviewed by the NIH.
Exercising outdoors returns you closer to your roots, to your inherited attraction to nature, to the “hunter-gathering” nature of your ancestors, enriching your life. There’s two points we want to stress here. If you are already a nature buff and spend a lot of time outdoors, you know you are getting a lot of healthy physical activity, and that’s a wonderful combination. You are enjoying the incredible benefits of nature and the amazing benefits of physical activity. If you are already an exercise buff, start doing it outdoors and double your health benefits.
Physical Activity In Nature And Nutrition
In order to enjoy all the Benefits In Being In Nature, you should be eating a well-balanced nutritious diet, which should consist of, fresh, as humanly possible, certified organic, non-GMO(genetically modified) nutrient-dense foods, can help you get sufficient calories and nutrients you need to fuel your daily activities, including healthy physical activity out in nature. The U.S. Government 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommends that people should aim to meet their nutrient requirements through a healthy eating pattern that includes nutrient-dense forms of foods.
Here are the nutrient-dense foods we recommend for a lifetime of wellness (use links for benefits documentation and to purchase): grass-fed finished lean meats, fresh, organic, free-range finished poultry, grass-fed finished dairy and eggs (A); fresh cold-water or wild-caught fish and seafood (A); fresh organic fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and edible flower seeds (A); and organic whole grains and complex carbohydrates, natural fermented foods, monounsaturated oils like extra virgin olive oil, fresh organic herbs and spices, and antioxidant drinks, infused water, naturally fermented red wine and beer, and fruit and veggie smoothies (A). And, reward yourself with a piece of dark chocolate. Now, we didn’t say milk chocolate.
Physical Activity In Nature And The Importance Of Supplementing
Eating the proper well-balanced nutritious foods are critical in maintaining your overall health and well being, but in addition to that, we want to stress to you the importance of supplementing your diet with the natural, organic, non-GMO, super food Peruvian Maca. Peruvian Maca has been used as a natural performance booster since the days of the Inca warriors.
Caffeine-free, plant based, and packed full of vital nutrients, this super food has been shown to enhance endurance stamina, and energy, making it the perfect supplement to take routinely with your physical nature visits. Is it any wonder why Peruvian Maca is the incredible healing plant it is?
Briefly, Peruvian Maca is jam-packed with healthy bio-active plant protein that is easily digested by your body. Peruvian Maca contains nearly all the essential amino acids required by your body for health. P Maca also contains 59 percent carbohydrates, providing sustained energy. P Maca contains twenty essential fatty acids, with the most abundant healthy ones being linolenic and palmitic.
P Maca boosts a wide-range of healthy vitamins, including vitamin C, thiamine, and niacin. P Maca also has bio-active plant sterols called phytoncides, and unique only to Maca, macamides and macamenes, which enhance your immune system. Remember, phytoncides are the ones humans absorb from plants to promote killer cells to fight off harmful invaders in our bodies.
The 4 critical ways Peruvian Maca can assist you with physical activity are as follows:
P Maca improves endurance and stamina by supplying increased energy levels, per a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
P Maca boots incredible adaptogenic properties, reducing stress, particularly, system stress experienced in intense workouts per an NIH review.
P Maca supports your adrenal gland function, which optimizes energy, by lowering damaging cortisol levels naturally. Cortisol is a stress hormone which when activated, acts as an energy boost just before physical activity, and if it is not regulated, leads you to adrenal fatigue, and exhaustion per Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
P Maca contains natural phytoncides, insect and disease repelling chemicals, which assist your immune system to resist harmful invaders such viruses, tumors, and even cancer-causing cells per an NIH review.
For more in depth information, documentation of benefits, and to purchase Peruvian Maca, read these reviews:
Now that you know about all the incredible Benefits In Being In Nature and why you should get out as much as you can out in nature, are you ready to put a plan in place? After you read the two reviews, go ahead and request your two FREE gifts, one being, your e book copy “The Secret Science of Staying Slim, Sane, and Sexy After 40”, and your 7-night trial sample of “Julva”.
Please ask your questions below. Your comments are also welcomed.
We leave you with some of our favorite quotes on nature:
Plant seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love; it will all come back to you in abundance. This is the law of nature.
If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.
Laura Ingals Wilder
Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
(A) Use these links for additional information, more documented studies, and to purchase any of these nutrient-dense foods for the benefit of your overall optimum health and well being.
(1) How To Live In The Present Mindfulness Exercises Aetna Video