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11 Scientifically Backed Reasons to Get Out in Nature

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It's no secret that most people don't get outside enough. What many of us may not know is how detrimental this is to our health. Human beings were built to go outdoors on a daily basis.

Making time each day to go outside and breathe fresh air is good for your body, mind, and spirit. If you need a little incentive to leave the comfy, conditioned indoors and sit under the sky for a spell, here are 11 great reasons to do just that.

  1. Sunshine = Vitamin D. Vitamin D is the number one vitamin most people don't have enough of. This is quite silly when you consider the fact that it's free. A fair skinned person who spends 30 minutes in direct sunlight makes 50,000 IU (International Units) of this essential vitamin over the course of 24 hours. When you consider the average adult only needs about 2,000 IU daily this is a huge influx of a nutrient that helps prevent a range of diseases, including osteoporosis and high blood pressure, and helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
  2. Your Memory Gets Better. A University of Michigan study compared memory function between people who took a walk in natural surroundings and those who walked in urban settings. Researchers found that those who walked in nature had significantly higher memory function than their urban-walking counterparts. If you can't leave the city each day for a walk in nature, don't fret. Just head over to the local park or walk in a neighborhood with lots of trees and open spaces for similar benefits.
  3. Your Mood Chills. According to color psychology, the color green is strongly associated with calm and renewal. This makes being outdoors psychologically powerful as well. We can lower our heart rate and levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, just by sitting outdoors for 15 minutes.
  4. You Will Burn More Calories. The National Institute of Health notes that those who run outdoors burn more calories than those who use a treadmill. This is due to factors we take for granted, like wind resistance and changes in the surface below our feet, including hills. Every little change adds up to make a significant difference. Whenever possible, give the treadmill or stair machine a rest, and hit the pavement.
  5. Your Body Heals Faster. Most of us think those manicured gardens at the hospital are just there to boost property values. The truth is, studies show that being outdoors in a green environment actually boosts the body's ability to heal. Scientific American reports that in a 1984 double-blind study at Texas A&M, it was shown that patients who had a view of green spaces healed an entire day faster than those who only saw a brick wall. Not only that, but the green patients also needed less pain medication.
  6. Reverse Eye Damage. Staring at screens as frequently as modern Americans do isn't good for our eyes. Computer vision syndrome and dry eye syndrome are on the rise, and we're suffering more headaches and blurry vision than we used to. Happily, these are easy to treat. Getting outside and focusing on distant objects on a regular basis throughout the day can actually reverse these conditions.
  7. Avoid Glasses. Artificial lighting has been shown to increase nearsightedness in children. The New York Times reports that a study done by Ohio State University shows children who spend two hours outdoors are four times less likely to be nearsighted than their counterparts who spent half as much time outside.
  8. Boost Your Mental Meds. While going out in nature can't replace your anxiety or depression medication, it can certainly give the medication a boost. Nature is strongly related to mindfulness, or the practice of recognizing your body and self fully in its current environment in the present moment. The American Psychological Association states that those who practice mindfulness experience less anxiety and depression than those whose brains are always wandering into the past or the future.
  9. Boost Your Self Esteem. Research shows that low self-esteem affects our overall quality of life. But being in nature has been shown to boost self-esteem and self-image. According to a study by the University of Essex, just a few minutes spent outside in nature can increase self-esteem and positively alter our self-perception.
  10. Connect with Your Community. The National Institute of Health reports on the health and social benefits of urban green spaces and their importance as social meeting places. Those who utilize such environments are much more likely to be inspired to invest their time actively making their communities and their lives better.
  11. Live Longer. Getting out in nature has so many benefits that it's no surprise that those who live near green spaces or frequent them are noted to live longer. The Washington Post reports that, people who had the most vegetation within 800 feet of their homes had a 12 percent lower rate of mortality from any non-accidental cause than people living in the least green places. This was true despite health factors such as smoking.

So, you see, it isn't a matter of whether you have time to get out into nature for a few minutes each day. With good health calling to you from the treetops, it's more of a matter of whether you can afford not to. So, step outside, and bask in the benefits.