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Why Science Says You Should Be Outside


JUNE 11, 2018

Hannah and I were outside enjoying a walk with our pup, Reese, the other day, and I thought a column on the benefits of being outdoors would be a perfect change of pace. We all know being outside is good for the soul, but science says it’s good for your overall health, too, for a few not-so-obvious reasons.

A pretty neat study that I came across compared the stress of a group of folks who took a two-day camping trip to another group that stayed in the city, and the results showed that the camping group had significantly less stress than the city group. The results gave good indication that being outdoors helps folks drop their stress down tremendously, which is just another reason I tell my clients to get out and enjoy nature as often as they can!

We also know things like back pain, neck pain, and depression can raise your levels of inflammation, which overall is very strenuous on your health and can eventually lead to dementia and heart issues. A similar study measured cortisol levels in its applicants that were consistently outside versus those applicants that were in an office setting, and the results found that the cortisol levels were significantly higher in those applicants who remained inside. The study not only took the one group outdoors to help prove its benefit in lowering inflammation and stress, but they even did simple things like opening up blinds, getting a screensaver that showed trees or things of that nature to see if it produced a similar effect, which it did.

So, aside from treating aches and pains, getting outdoors is beneficial in helping inflammation and stress, but it’s also known to reduce fatigue. What I mean by “fatigue” is more or less “mental fatigue.” For instance, when you’ve had a long day and you get home, you just kind of feel beat or exhausted. Everybody has experienced this feeling at some point… However, in most cases, scientists say that is more mental fatigue than anything.

I know here at the clinic by the time I’ve finished with my last client, it’s very easy to just hit the couch and not do much of anything, but that is simply mental fatigue. Another study I looked at split up two groups, one of which was sent outside and the other of course left inside, but in this study they looked at levels of mental fatigue through different tests and questionnaires. The results found that the outdoor group also had significantly lower levels of mental fatigue than the indoor group. These results indicate that simply opening the blinds, getting outside more often and experiencing nature can definitely help in easing that mental fatigue.

In past columns, I’ve talked about how walking is really like a “miracle drug,” because it not only keeps you active, but it also helps in reducing high blood pressure. Research shows that by combining walking and being outside, it really enhances the effect of lowering your blood pressure. So, if you’re looking for a good way to control it, try getting outside and take a 30-minute walk at your favorite, scenic spot.

Try to remember, “a walk a day can keep your memory from going away.” Not only does walking outdoors lower your blood pressure, but another set of researchers found that it can significantly improve your memory. A scientific study compared the results between two groups, one of which walked through the park in New York City and the other walked through the city’s streets. When the groups returned, the researchers performed a memory test on each group, and the results found that the park walkers scored upwards of 20 percent higher on the short-term memory test than the street walkers—a significant difference. Further studies have shown that taking a 1-hr walk, three times a week can slow the progression of dementia.

So, make it your goal each week to get outdoors as often as you can—because science says so! It may take a little push on your part to get past that mental fatigue, but once you’ve gotten into a routine, you’ll be able to appreciate all the health benefits the great outdoors has to offer!

That’s it for today, everyone! Remember, movement is medicine!