I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors. From hiking in the woods to biking to camping to reading a book on a blanket under the trees to gardening and so much more, I love opportunities to be outdoors. And that’s good because there are many benefits of spending time in nature.
Growing up, my sisters, friends and I were constantly outdoors playing, lounging, dreaming. When I went to undergrad college in mid-Michigan, I spent much time hiking in the woods or going on trail rides while training horses (I rode horses for many years before bone cancer surgery prevented it). I didn’t think much about the benefits of spending time in nature, I just knew I enjoyed it and always felt better when I was outside.
Then I spent 17 days in the hospital when I came down with an infection during bone cancer treatment. I was 22. After 14 days inside, I was feeling better and so stir crazy that my oncologist let me escape to the hospital’s garden area. I still remember how calming and refreshing it was to breathe fresh air, hear the birds chirping and trees softly blowing in the wind, and feel the warmth of the sun. It’s almost as if that moment bloomed something inside me and nature became my special place.
Numerous studies find great benefits of spending time in nature, whether being active or simply relaxing. Some of these benefits include:*
Improves mood to be calming, happy, relaxed
Reduces stress hormones and anxiety
Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
Boosts immune system
Increases energy levels
Can ease muscle tension and inflammation
There are many activities you can enjoy outdoors to get these benefits! Walking, running, biking, hiking, camping, rollerblading, snowshoeing, picnics, soccer, gardening, reading,…..ok. you probably get the idea that it’s really easy to enjoy nature! And even if you live in a city, most still have parks and green space to enjoy. Local nature centers typically have trails to walk/hike through and there are miles of old railroad lines transformed into biking/walking trails across the country.
Exposure to green space helps us emotionally and physically, but also can help nature. Creating an appreciation and love of our environment can lead to more people helping protect our world. I teach my nieces and nephew about Leave No Trace when we’re hiking in the woods. There are also recycling programs and small changes you can make to ensure nature, including the green space and animals, are looked after so we can continue to enjoy and benefit.
Do you like spending time in nature? What are some of your favorite activities when outdoors?