New studies show that simply being outdoors could be an effective treatment for many complaints, from depression and pre-diabetes to high blood pressure and obesity. It has long been known that the modern indoor lifestyle is detrimental to people’s health but researchers have concluded that the natural world is more powerful than we think. Some doctors in America are now even giving prescriptions for spending time outdoors in the fresh air.
The natural world is great for mental health because seeing trees and hearing birds can help treat various maladies such as depression, anxiety, and disruptive behavior in children.
Being outdoors is great for the health but being outdoors and aware of everything going on around you is even more beneficial.
Being mindful while in a natural setting has therapeutic effects on the brain. It actually makes you feel better.
However it is not only the mental side of your health that the natural world environment can improve. Studies show that high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and overall mortality risk is all reduced.
Of course, combining exercise with being outdoors is a great way to boost mental and physical health together. Cycling or running outside are popular park activities, though many people are put off exercising in winter due to the bad weather.
Nowadays, it can be hard to be peaceful for a moment without someone pulling out a mobile phone and it is tempting to always be contactable and ‘in touch’ with the world via social media and the internet.
But being mindful of what is happening all around us and using our senses is an important step in understanding our health and our mental and physical needs.
Writing a prescription of medical treatments for all ailments does not work. Patients return to the doctor heavier, with higher blood pressure and greater levels of anxiety.
Instead, if doctors write a prescription for spending time in the natural world, this could help people in many ways.
A prescription to sit on a park bench for half an hour and watch the world go by can work wonders for someone with depression.
In fact, this is exactly what one doctor is doing. Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician who founded and directs the nonprofit Park Rx America, literally prescribes going outdoors to his patients.
This treatment has seen great improvements in the patients’ mental and physical health.
The importance of getting outside has been noted and is gaining in prominence as a medically sound treatment for all sorts of ailments.
Indeed, the World Health Organization lists access to green spaces as a social determinant of overall health. Every human should have access to safe green space not only for recreation and play but literally for health reasons.
There are many simple ways to improve your fitness and health and being outdoors in one of them.
Share your thoughts
Do you feel going outside improves your mood?
What outdoor activities lift your spirits the most?
What tips would you give to someone wanting quality outdoor time if they live in the middle of a city?
Have you felt your physical health improve from being outdoors? In what ways?