Getting outside is good for your mood, particularly when the weather is nice, but did you know that being outdoors is good for the rest of your body as well? Here are five reasons to get outside as soon as possible and take full advantage of everything that nature has to offer you.
1. Soak Up Some D
Vitamin D, that is.
Adequate vitamin D promotes healthy bone growth, and vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to all manner of problems including several types of cancer, heart disease, depression, and weight gain.
Vitamin D is tough to get purely from food sources, so the healing power of the sun is essential. According to the vitamin D council, you get enough vitamin D from the sun's rays in half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn; for fair-skinned people, this could mean you only need to get outside for as little as 15 minutes of time to reap the benefits.
2. Bear Your Feet to Help Your Gut
Bare feet and a healthy gut have something in common: when you walk outside, you are able to absorb much-needed probiotics, also known in some circles as soil-based organisms.
While the jury's still out on whether we should be ingesting these organisms or not, some experts claim that merely coming into contact with these organisms is enough.
"The grass and soil are packed with probiotics, many of which you can’t get in foods," says Christina Major, Holistic Nutritionist and Naturopathic Doctor. "When we walk in the grass, garden, or simply touch natural plants, we pick up these probiotics. They stay with us and improve our lives."
A barefoot walk through the garden is an easy way to incorporate these organisms into your system.
3. Grab a Friend, Get Outside, and Get Happy
Several studies have shown the benefits of the outdoors on mental and emotional health. One study in particular, published in the journal Ecopsychology, showed the ways in which group nature walks were linked to considerably lower rates of depression and increased mental health and wellbeing. The effects of the walks were increased for people who had recently experienced a particularly stressful event, such as a serious illness or the death of a loved one.
Other cognitive benefits including lower stress and better focus were highlighted in a study published in 2008, which showed the ways in which the modest stimuli of nature can allow restorative therapy to take place and allow us to emerge more relaxed and more attentive for other tasks at hand.
4. Nature Has Healing Benefits
A 2005 study examined a selection of 89 patients undergoing elective cervical and lumbar spinal surgery, comparing those who were housed on the side of the hospital with 46 percent more sunlight and those housed on the side with less sunlight. The patients who received more sunlight perceived less stress, reported having marginally less pain, and took 22 percent less analgesic medication per hour, seeming to show that sunlight decreased pain, or at least perception of pain.
A 2008 study in the Journal of Biological Regulators & Homeostatic Agents, meanwhile, showed that a three-day forest bathing trip enhanced human NK activity in healthy women, which has been linked to a decreased risk of cancer.
5. Boost Your Metabolism and Lose Weight
Some studies have shown that exercise done out of doors has more effects on weight loss and metabolism than exercise done in a gym. A 2013 New York Times article explored the ways in which the outdoors can have a positive effect on an exercise regimen, ranging from a different stride when running to differences in the muscles used based on changing terrain, all amounting to a more well-rounded workout.
Whatever the reason, and whatever the way you choose to do it, get outside to start to reap these and other benefits of the great outdoors.
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Friends hiking image via Shutterstock