We have spent a lot of time discussing many of the various ways we can effectively improve your overall health and well being, from eating the proper, well-balanced, nutritional foods, to getting ample, 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 what exercise is about, 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 seperate category from other natural phenomena. But seriously, are humans really seperate? 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. We enjoy the beauty and peace in being in a natural setting. But, did you know, that the latest research is finding that visiting a forest, or being on the ocean, has real, quantifiable, health and well being benefits. 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 that come from spending time in nature are so obvious, that they’ve been measured and confirmed by science. 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%, which improves your immune system’s capacity to detect and eliminate cancerous cells and cells infected with viruses and other harmful invaders.
Here is the way that occurs. Plants expell 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 chemicals, 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. These special white blood cells kill off tumors and virus-infected cells. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
When that forest trip is increased to three days, research has shown 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 is 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? 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% and 9%, respectively. 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 study found that when people with psychological distress were exposed to either 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. 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. Remarkably, children with ADHD, showed significantly improvement in focusing and concentration, when spending time out in a natural setting. 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 what exercise is about, 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 ninety-minute walk in nature has been shown to reduce neural activity in brain areas linked with mental illness, whereas, a ninety walk in a city setting, showed no positive change. Nature walks of eighty minutes also appear to lower blood pressure and adrenaline, increase energy, mood, and vigor, and a decrease in fatigue, confusion, anxiety, and depression.
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. 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. In Japan, for example, “forest therapy” has been used for decades to combat the negative effects of urban life. 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.
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.
One study of four-hundred-twenty people found that after engaging in forest therapy, cortisol levels dropped by an average of 12.4%, sympathetic nervous activity dropped by 7%, systolic blood pressure decreased by 1.4%, heart rate dropped by 5.8%, and parasympathetic nervous activity, indicating reaching a relaxed state, increased by an incredible 55%. 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.
Individuals with chronic widespread pain saw significant relief from their pain, as well as associated physical and psychological symptoms, following a two-day forest therapy camping trip. 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.
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 many 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. A systematic review 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, orindividual therapy, as a way to address mental, relational, and behavioral problems. 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.
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.
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. This is called “being-in-the-present-moment.” It is a form of meditation. 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.
Exercise And The Outdoors
You know the importance of physical activity in maintaining your overall health and well being. 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. Serotonin is a mood-enhancing chemical, and a deficiency in it, has been linked to fatigue, anxiety, impaired cognitive function, and depression. 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.
Physical Activity And Nutrition
Eating a well-balanced nutritious diet, which should consist of, fresh, as humanly possible, certified organic, non-GMO(genetically modified) nutritious foods, can help you get sufficient calories and nutrients you need to fuel your daily activities, including healthy physical activity. These nutritious foods should also be in the form of lean, grass-fed beef, lean free-range pork and poultry, fruits and vegetables, fiber and whole-grains, and the reduction of junk and fast foods, fried foods, and reprocessed and precooked foods. For more information on these types of foods and where to buy them from specialty markets, read this review “What Is In Maca Root?”
Physical Activity 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, I 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 exercise program. Take a look at the image. 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% 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.
The five critical ways Peruvian Maca can assist you with physical activity are as follows:
- P Maca improves endurance and stamina by supplying increased energy levels.
- P Maca boots incredible adaptogenic properties, reducing stress, particularly, system stress experienced in intense workouts.
- P Maca helps you with muscle soreness, because of its antioxidant properties, by increasing the number of immune system cells responsible for muscle rejuvenation and repair.
- 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.
- 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.
Now that you know what exercise is about, truly about, and why you should do it as much as you can out in nature, are you ready to put a plan in place? For more in depth information on Peruvian Maca benefits and where to purchase it, read these two reviews: “How To Relieve Stress From: Hormonal imbalance“, and “What’s Healthy Living?” 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”.
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