29 Sep 5 Reasons to Reconsider Your Indoor/Outdoor Ratios
I just read a study in the journal Neuroscience that found the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae found in soil can lead to increased serotonin production in the brains of mice. Some medical professionals are using this new information to to advise people to hold a handful of moist soil in order elevate their mood. I’m all for natural healing, but for me it’s tough to apply these findings to humans quite yet.
That said, there are plenty of human-tested studies showing the benefits that being outdoors can have on the human body. Here are 5 things to know about outdoor time and your health:
Improve Your Outlook
A recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that by walking in a park, an individual can reduce the blood flow to the part of the brain that is typically associated with brooding. So if you’re feeling moody, get outside and jump-start the blood-flow in your brain!
University of Michigan researchers have linked group nature walks to increased positivity and mental health. Additionally, time spent outside increases your vitamin D levels, and increased vitamin D has been shown to fight depression.
Boost Your Immunity
No need to spend a small fortune on immune supplements at the store- the best get-healthy pill may just be in your backyard! An interesting study from researchers at the Nippon Medical School in Japan sent women out in the woods for six hours a day for two days. When they returned from their outdoor time, these women showed an increase in virus and tumor-fighting white blood cells. And get this- the increased count lasted for at least seven days afterwards.
Your Doctor Can Prescribe It
This might surprise you to hear, but some doctors are starting to write prescriptions for parks. It makes sense, considering the health benefits above. But even more than that, UK researchers have found that when people do physical activity in natural settings instead of “synthetic environments,” they experience less anger, fatigue, and sadness. The idea of park prescriptions is catching on. Come see me in my office and I might even have one for you!
Foster Social Connections
This is an indirect link, but a healthy benefit of outdoors time nonetheless. Time outside can lead people to increased social connectivity and feelings of purpose. Think about it, being outside a lot might persuade you to volunteer in an urban garden, join a conservation society, or start a hiking club. Even in the absence of the biological mechanisms researchers have found (see reasons 1-3), if time spent outside leads a person to “giving back”, it’s a huge health benefit.