Healthy Beginnings

5 ways your body and mind benefit from outdoor activity

Get outside! Your body — and mind — will thank you for it.

Springtime is a beautiful time. The warming air, longer days and blooming plants and trees make outdoor adventure irresistible this time of year.

Being outside is not only a great way to explore this spring; it has also been proven to have myriad mental and physical benefits.

  1. Increased Productivity

Have you “hit a wall” in your office day? Studies have shown that it may help to head outside. Just 15 minutes outside can help to increase productivity.

The concept at play here is Attention Restoration Theory (ART). This theory postulates that our world — filled with computers, phones, cars and people — taxes our brain with constant mental processing.

Being outside comes naturally to humans. Through spending time outside, we are able to mitigate the overstimulation of our minds, allowing us to focus more clearly on a task and retain more information. In essence, “zoning out” might be good for you. So the next time you “hit a wall,” try heading out to the woods.

  1. Greater Creativity

Spending time outside has also been shown to increase flexibility and creativity in a task. In a study done at Stanford University, participants at a university were given prompts, and then asked to create analogies describing those prompts.

Participants who sat for the duration of the experiment created on average 50 percent novel analogies, compared to 95 percent novel analogies from those who walked. Simply getting up and stretching your legs can help boost creativity and mental clarity.

  1. Increased Happiness

Being in the forest impacts us on many levels-from awakening our five senses to impacting our mental wellbeing.

Phytoncides, or essential oils released by trees and other plant life, have been shown to have positive psychological effects.

Spending time in the forest has been shown to reduce anxiety and to increase feelings of wellbeing and contentedness. The phytoncides act together with the natural environment to bring us a renewed sense of ease and happiness.

  1. Immune Boosting

The phytoncides in trees is thought to also increase immune-boosting compounds in the human body. A small study in Japan linked daily exposure to phytoncides to increased white blood cells, which help to fight disease and infection.

Another side-benefit to spending time outdoors in the forest and in natural areas is absorption of Vitamin D from the sun, which is essential for immune function. Want to stay healthy this summer? Head outside!

  1. Physical Health

Spending time outdoors is great for our physical health, there is no denying that. From the obvious — getting outside and walking is good for you — to the less evident — spending time in the forest has been linked with lower blood pressure in adults.

So next time that you “hit a wall,” or feel stressed, or just need some time to be mindful and present, head to the woods and to nature. You won’t regret it — and you will be sure to experience a number of physical and mental benefits.

Annora McGarry is a lover of all things outdoors who has made her home in Tahoe City. She works for Granlibakken Tahoe, a resort, retreat center and lodge located in Tahoe City. Granlibakken Tahoe hosts twice yearly wellness retreats, under their Sierra Soul brand.