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Sharp Health News

5 ways being outdoors can make you healthier and happier

May 19, 2020

Get outside to de-stress during the holidays

Fresh air, sun, trees. Nature is a magical thing, and according to some studies, can have strong healing powers — such as improving mood, boosting the immune system and increasing anti-cancer proteins.

"Being outdoors in nature can be healing and beneficial for the body and mind," says Erica Price, a certified therapeutic recreational specialist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. "Whether at the beach, forest or in a neighborhood park, nature offers a calming effect. And when we combine nature with physical activity, it can help fight depression and anxiety."

Right now, in the age of COVID-19's self-distancing and shelter-in-place orders, there's never been a better time, and bigger need, for the benefits of nature.

"Now that some restrictions have been lifted, it is getting easier to get back to nature and all it has to offer," says Price. "But be sure to keep safety in mind. When in nature with others, keep a distance of six feet, wear face coverings and wash your hands as often as you can."

According to Price, being outdoors can improve your health and well-being in the following five ways:

  • Lowers your blood pressure and reduces stress — Spending time walking among or simply looking at trees lowers blood pressure and reduces the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

  • Improves mood — Researchers have found that nature simply makes us happy. Anxiety, depression and anger are notably decreased after spending time outdoors.

  • Improves focus — Studies show that both adults and children who have difficulties focusing or controlling impulses are better able to concentrate after being in nature. The natural world allows our brains to take a break from all that mentally drains us, and even reduces symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

  • Helps us heal quicker — Illness and surgery can be painful and frightening, which can increase stress and slow healing. However, researchers discovered that patients who spent time outdoors during their recovery required fewer painkillers, had fewer complications and experienced shorter hospital stays.

  • Supports graceful aging — According to a study in the Journal of Aging and Health, adults over 70 who spent time outdoors experienced fewer sleep difficulties, complained less about aches and pains, and enjoyed improved mobility and ability to perform daily activities.

Price notes that spending time outside can be especially beneficial during holidays, when schedules become fuller and stress levels rise.

"I love to walk in neighborhoods to see how people celebrate different holidays — what a great way to enjoy the health benefits of being outdoors and to take your mind to a positive place of peace and gratitude."

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