Posts Tagged ‘benefits of nature’

Get Outside at Any Age

The weather is warming up, the sun is out, and we Michiganders are beginning to venture outside after the long, gray winter.

Have you ever spent the day outside doing something, anything, and felt better afterward? Turns out, there’s a scientific reason for that. Numerous studies have shown that spending time outside, or even just looking out a window at a nature-filled view, has tons of benefits for our physical and mental health.

Unfortunately, as we get older, the motivation to go outside decreases. There’s no time, you have no energy, you don’t know what to do. As age progresses physical limitations get in the way too. Yet the older we get, the more important it is to get out and move.

Age should not be a limiting factor. You can enjoy yourself and feel better no matter how old you are, just like this video by Attn: and REI shows.

 

Don’t believe the video? How about Harvard?

Spending time outdoors is good for you, from the Harvard Health Letter

Published: July, 2010

Summer is here. The outdoors beckons. Heed that call and you’ll reap physical and mental health benefits, reports the July 2010 issue of the Harvard Health Letter. Here are five good reasons to get outdoors:

Your vitamin D levels rise. Sunlight hitting the skin begins a process that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D. Studies suggest that this vitamin helps fight certain conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks. Limited sun exposure (don’t overdo it), supplemented with vitamin D pills if necessary, is a good regimen.

You’ll get more exercise. If you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking and doing other things that put the body in motion.

You’ll be happier. Light tends to elevate people’s mood, and there’s usually more light available outside than in. Physical activity has been shown to help people relax and cheer up, so if being outside replaces inactive pursuits with active ones, it might also mean more smiles.

Your concentration will improve. Children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors. It might be a stretch to say that applies to adults, but if you have trouble concentrating, outdoor activity may help.

You may heal faster. In one study, people recovering from spinal surgery experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications when they were exposed to natural light. An older study showed that the view out the window (trees vs. a brick wall) helped recovery in the hospital.

Read the full-length article: “A prescription for better health—go alfresco”

 

We hope you get out and enjoy the outdoors this year. Whether that means taking a bike ride across the state, staying home gardening in your yard, or anything and everything in between. We have a beautiful state Michigan, let’s have fun in it!

Why Kids Should Play Outdoors

8 science-backed reasons for letting your kids play outdoors

nature

The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day. Only 6% of children nine to 13 play outside on their own in a typical week.  

But if you’re reading this, you probably already know that outdoor play is essential for children’s health and well-being. Here are eight science-backed reasons that prove you’re right.


1. Better vision – Multiple studies show that sunshine and the natural light of outdoors lowers the chance of nearsightedness and improves distance vision in children. Kids who spent more time outside had better distance vision than those who prefer indoor activities. A recent study from Ohio State University College of Optometry says that 14 hours a week of outdoor light is effective for better vision.

2. Better resistance to disease Multiple studies show that playing in the dirt (soil) outdoors helps kids stay healthy. Bacteria, viruses and other gross things in the soil actually help the immune system, and brain develop. Playing the dirt can also improve a child’s mood and reduce anxiety and stress.

3. Increased Vitamin D – It’s difficult to get enough of this nutrient strictly from food. 80 to 90 percent of our vitamin D actually comes from sunshine. Sensible unprotected sun exposure of 10 to 15 minutes will do it. After the first 10 – 15 minute exposure, it’s best to cover up with sunscreen.

4. Less Stress –  More than 100 research studies have shown that outdoor recreation reduces stress. This comes from a combination of factors producing positive physiological and psychological responses.

Also, in this poll, 90 percent of kids who spent time outside said being in nature and taking part in outdoor activities helped relieve stress.

 5. Better attention spans, even for kids with ADHD symptoms –  Several studies done by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign show that natural settings and green outdoor activities reduced ADHD symptoms in children. Activities outdoors specifically had greater positive impact than other settings. These positive effects are measured in children as young as age five.

A 2008 study at the University of Michigan found that memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after subjects spent an hour out in the nature.

Likewise, 78%  of educators in a large survey reported that “children who spend regular time in unstructured outdoor play are better able to concentrate and perform better in the classroom.”

6. Better physical fitness – Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies. One in three American kids who are obese. Running around, climbing, walking, exploring, and getting dirty burn calories and strengthen growing bodies.

Bonus: there’s ample evidence linking physical fitness and academic achievement.

Likewise, there’s evidence that simply taking a stroll outside increases creativity.

7. Better physical coordination –  Another way to say this is  better sensory skills. Playing outside involves uneven surfaces, rocks, branches, holds and unstable surfaces like gravel, sand and mud. Playing around these elements takes balance, agility, dexterity, and depth perception.

8. Better classroom performance – Multiple studies show that kids who spend time outside (including during the school day) do better in all academic subjects.

Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.

Factoring out other variables, studies of students in California and nationwide show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education produce significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math. For example, one study found that students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27 percent.

BONUS POINTS!

9. Spark curiosity & imagination – As kids grow, indoor environments become known, understood, and familiar. However, outside environments are dynamic and ever-changing. They are outside our control. As such, they invite the mind to wander, looking, observing.

10. Better nature literacy and local understanding – From TV, movies, books and apps, many kids know a lot about dinosaurs, pandas and sharks.  Bringing them outside lets them explore and learn about their own local ecosystem. Kids take immense, healthy pride from learning the names of the plants and animals in their own neighborhood.

Our Amazing Soil

There is a lot going on in the great outdoors and even those of us who are interested in it often overlook things. Take looking down for instance. When was the last time you actually looked down at your feet while on a hike or walk outside? Unless you were watching out for tripping hazards, my guess is it’s been awhile.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are a LOT of interesting things to see, hear, and explore while outside. However, the next time you go out, take a couple of moments to think about the soil under your feet. There’s a ton going on down there that we are never even aware of. Soil is one of the most complex habitats out there and provides the foundation (literally) for all life. Soil acts as a water filter, a growing medium for plants, provides homes for billions of organisms, and supplies most of the antibiotics we use to fight diseases.

So since 2015 is the International Year of Soils, let’s give a round of applause for one of the most overlooked aspects of nature – the one you’re walking on. 🙂

Below is an infographic produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. There is a link to the pdf beneath it if you would like to download a copy.

soils and biodiversity infographic

Download soils and biodiversity infographic

Getting Out in Nature Boosts Creativity

Take A Hike! Unplugging And Recharging In Nature Boosts Creativity

Posted: 12/16/2012 9:51 am EST, Huffington Post

Creativity Nature

If you’re stuck in a creative rut, the best way out may be to just unplug and recharge.

A new study, to be published in the journal PLOS One, shows that spending four nature-filled days, away from electronic devices, is linked with 50 percent higher scores on a test for creativity.

The findings provide “a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be remediated by taking a hike in nature,” study researcher David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, said in a statement.

The study included 56 people with an average age of 28. The study participants went on electronics-free wilderness hiking trips in Colorado, Maine, Washington and Alaska, lasting from four to six days, that were organized by the Outward Bound expedition school. Creativity tests were taken by 24 of the study participants the morning they started their trip, while 32 of the participants took the test on the fourth day of their trip.

Researchers found that those who took the creativity test later on in the trip got more questions right than those who took the test at the beginning of the trip, before they’d had the chance to be immersed in nature.

The study authors said that they aren’t sure if the improved scores on the test were due to being in nature, or from being unplugged from the electronic devices. But past research has linked the color green with creativity.

A study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, showed that seeing the color green before being given a creative prompt yielded more imaginative answers than seeing the color white before the prompt.

                                                        *End of Huffington Post Article*                                                                  

And if you just can’t unplug completely, here are ten free apps to help you link nature and technology.

Really?! Nature Reduces Stress?

Feeling Stressed!!?! Visit Doctor Nature

From Wildlife Promise, blog from the National Wildlife Federation

nature, stress, national stress awareness month, national wildlife federation, get outdoors, health

Children enjoy outdoor time in Florida in this donated image by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Wiliam Chitty.

April is National Stress Awareness Month. Most of us probably feel we’re already plenty aware of stress, with anxiety over the economy and politics and getting by. But Stress Awareness Month, sponsored by the Health Resource Network, is a national, cooperative effort to inform people about stress-related topics, including successful coping strategies. And that’s’ where NWF comes in.

The Restorative Power of Nature

In its efforts to protect nature, the Federation is helping to preserve one of the key means for reducing stress: getting outdoors among trees and birds, wind and sunshine.

People have known intuitively for many years about the restorative power of natureHenry David Thoreau, the Concord, Massachusetts, naturalist, observed in the middle of the 19th century, “An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”

And toward the end of the century, John Muir, who championed Yosemite as a national park, told us, “Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own.”

Current views on nature’s role in reducing stress support what Thoreau and Muir preached. Increasingly, evidence shows that spending time in nature helps with healing, recoveryemotional well being and social life. Time spent outside can even improve your child’s sleeping habits.

In hospital studies, Texas A&M University psychologist Roger Ulrich found that surgical patients randomly assigned to a room with a window view of trees not only required less pain medication, but also healed faster and were discharged more quickly than if they had no window or had a view of a brick wall.

Other research found that tapping into the power of nature also may boost a company’s bottom line: Michigan office and factory workers were both happier with their work environment and 20 percent more productive after their firm moved into a building that had skylights and windows that opened onto views of restored prairie with meandering footpaths and wetlands rather than sterile, office park surroundings.

Getting Into Nature

Even though research supports the significant role that nature plays in our physical and emotional health, people arespending less and less time outdoors. The National Park Service recently found that the Millennial Generation, born since 2000, is much less likely than previous generations to visit and support national parks.

This fact should generate a bit of stress among wildlife enthusiasts, because the future for nature depends on a strong constituency demanding protection for wild places. Getting outdoors creates a bond between nature and people and builds strong support for wildlife and habitat protection. A study in the 1990s found that almost 100 percent of avid conservationists had spent time in nature as children with an older person, usually a relative.

When you get outside, and get your children outside, you are returning to nature the benefits that it gives you. NWF offers a wide variety of information on outdoor activities, including volunteer projects that let you help protect wild places at the same time that you’re letting nature protect you. That’s a pretty good bargain for National Stress Awareness Month.

When thinking about outdoor activities with your family, don’t forget to register for NWF’s June 23 Great American Backyard Campout, a chance to join thousands of other Americans sleeping under the stars.

Here are some additional resources to help you get outside!

Children and Nature Network – Resource to help connect kids to the outdoors.

Nature Find – Find outdoor areas in your region.

Finding My Forest – Find a forest near you and connect kids with trees.

Capital Area Green Maps – Find outdoor areas, gardens, nature centers and more.  Limited resource to the Lansing, MI area only.

Psychological Benefits of Nature Experiences – Research on why we should get outside.

Outside during winter? Who would have thought?

Here in the northern states we tend to hide in our homes when the mercury drops and, like the precognitive groundhog, don’t emerge again until spring.  But there are plenty of reasons to venture out of doors during the winter months.  Some of which you may not have known about.

No More Winter Blues

The colder weather, along with the endless succession of cloudy days, can lead to depression from spending too much time inside.  Getting outside, even for a little while, can help relieve some of the winter doldrums.  Sunlight, yes it’s there even if it’s hard to see, can actually improve your mood by releasing neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood.  Exercise does the same thing.  So take up a winter sport, go on a winter walk, do some wildlife watching or photography, or just make a snowman in your front yard.  You’ll feel better.

Vitamin D

Sunlight also has the added benefit of providing us with much needed Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is essential to developing bones and fighting off illness and disease.  It has also been shown to give your immune system a boost, something that may prove very beneficial this flu season.  Many adults and children don’t get enough Vitamin D in their diets, but the sun benefits us by letting us absorb it through our skin!  Just be sure not to expose too much skin, it is winter after all.

Fresh Air Anyone?

Being outside can have a multitude of positive affects on your health.  One of the simplest is just being able to get fresh air.  Getting out gets you away from the cleaning fumes, detergents, automobile exhaust, or second-hand smoke you might be breathing on a daily basis.  Nature also helps people relax.  By stepping away from the cell phone, TV, and internet you are able to form a connection to nature and forget the to-do list – for awhile at least.

Better Overall Health

Anyone who has spent time working behind a desk is familiar with how your eyes feel at the end of a long day.  In this type of environment, we spend most of our time focusing on things directly in front of us – computers, paperwork, etc.  Nature relieves that eye strain by giving your eyes several different things to focus on at several different distances.  Think of it as an exercise for your pupils.  In addition, studies have shown that memory performance and attention spans improved by 2o% in people after they spent an hour outdoors.  Going outside also has therapeutic affects that can increase your energy levels, something everyone needs from time to time.

Wildlife Opportunities

Even in winter, there are a lot of birds and mammals out and about.  If you are interested in seeing more animals in your area, winter might be the best time to do it.  Since a lot of the trees have lost their leaves and the ground cover has died back, there is less vegetation for animals to hide in.  Take a quiet stroll through a park, nature center, or even your yard and see how much you can find.

Don’t think there are accessible natural areas in your area?  Visit the Natural Wildlife Federation’s Nature Find page.  You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Hopefully this has inspired you to bundle up, brave the elements, and get outdoors for some winter fun!