Recently, one of my patients asked me to do a contribution on the health benefits of being outside. My wife, Mindy, was able to quickly find an article that was able to define how much and what type of outdoor time people need.
Does being outside make you healthy? Yes … maybe. Just being outside, watching the traffic go by, isn’t going to do much for you. Walking, biking, jogging, playing pickleball, etc., will increase your cardio abilities and improve your health as we discussed in the past, but these are forms of exercise and not my focus today.
The research is increasingly pointing to being in green spaces as the key for maximum benefit to your health, both physically and psychologically. In a 20,000-person study published by Mathew White of the University of Exeter, people that spent two hours a week in green spaces reported better health and well-being than those that didn’t. These effects worked across all groups: rich, poor, race and ethnicity, healthy and those with chronic diseases.
What is green space? In a nutshell, they are parks and other natural environments. I think it is important to focus on the natural environment. I am not talking about the local basketball park, which obviously is great exercise; I am talking about trees and green grass, the green and blue waters at the beach, etc. We have wonderful assets here in Marathon and in the Keys that provide us more nature than we can imagine. Some are free, some cost a few dollars. Most are reachable on foot, whether you are walking to Sombrero Beach or Oceanfront Park. I could write a whole paper describing all of the nature areas between Duck Key and Big Pine that we have access to.
So, you made it to a green space … now what? The Japanese call it forest bathing, which is a fancy way to say going for a walk through the woods. That’s the beauty of green space; you don’t actually have to do anything, just be there and appreciate the world that you are in. Turn the cell phone off, walk around, do some snorkeling, just immerse yourself in the space.
The benefits are amazing. Studies point to a wide array of effects, decreased aggression and attention deficit disorder, increased well-being, increased immune system abilities and more.
Bottom line: take that walk or jog to a local park, then spend 20 minutes there just being in nature; 20 minutes a day and you will be a healthier (and less stressed) you.
Have a great week, and be healthier today than you were yesterday.