Out in Nature: A Great Way to Get Back to Center
Whether you decide to take a walk around the block, across a park, or over a mountain, getting outside can be one of the best ways to relax and renew your focus. No matter how you do it, get outdoors to improve your health, energy, and mental clarity.
Improve Your Health
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, physical activity such as hiking, climbing, or walking outdoors can provide a range of health benefits, including:
- Heart Disease,
- Some types of cancers,
- Type 2 diabetes,
- Prevention of high blood pressure and high cholesterol,
- Improved physical fitness (aerobic capacity, muscle strength, and endurance),
- Improvements in your basic “functional capacity” or ability to perform day-to-day tasks,
- Lowered instance of injury or sudden heart attack, and even
- Decreased chance of early death.
A little activity is better than none at all. Even if all you do is take a walk around the block, you’re increasing your chances of living a healthy and productive life.
Improve Your Energy Levels
Getting outside can help boost flagging energy levels. If you’re groggy in the morning or sleepy in the early afternoon, try stepping out for a little sunshine. In the morning, exposure to sunlight helps your body regulate hormones and biochemicals so that you feel more rejuvenated and awake. When you start to drag in the early afternoon, stepping outside has a similar effect.
Improve Your Mental Focus
Research has shown that an outdoor walking routine can improve health and mental well-being even in older individuals. And an article in Backpacker covers recent research suggesting that getting out into the wilderness for at least four days can make you as much as 45 percent smarter! When you get away from the multitasking madness at your desk or in your home and let nature wash over you for a few days, the parts of your brain that are overtaxed from constant work are refreshed and revitalized, making you more able to focus and improving your problem-solving abilities.
Things to Watch Out For
For all you city dwellers, be careful when and how you work out outdoors. Air pollution is a deadly enemy! Don’t walk or run along roadways if at all possible. Step outside to have your coffee in the sun, but do your running indoors on a treadmill. Air pollution is more likely to damage tissues that are under strain from heavy exercise.
The same goes for rural dwellers on those bright, hot summer afternoons. Ozone concentrations are at their worst during this kind of heat in countryside environments. Save your walks or runs for early morning or late afternoon. If you farm, stick to indoor activities in the heat of the day and get outdoors in the morning and evening.
Make It Happen.
No matter where you live, getting into the wilderness a couple times a year can be a blessing. If you’re not the hiking sort, find a place where you can pitch a tent near a stream, not far from your car, and stay put for a couple of days. Turn off the cell phone and don’t bring the computer or TV. Getting away from the hustle and bother of our hectic lives is a rejuvenating experience that can’t be fully accomplished in any other way.