Scientists call it ecotherapy and attention restoration. Urban planners call it greenspace exposure. The Japanese call it forest bathing or shinrin-yoku.
Whatever you call it, it turns out that being out and moving in nature is more than just a refreshing way to get your physical activity for the day. It can actually improve your mood, focus, and brain performance.
Five powerful benefits of getting active outside.
- It’s break time for your brain.
When we’re in a gym or on a busy street, our brains are trying to manage all the stimulation—which can be exhausting. Being in nature gives the brain less to focus on, which means more time to rest. The chance to disengage plus the joy of being in a pleasant setting can improve brain function and cognition.1,3
- It interrupts the cycle of negative thoughts.
Moving our bodies in nature also seems to quiet the part of our brains that gets stuck on sad or negative thoughts. This may be why being near trees and other green spaces has been linked to lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.1
- It boosts your mood.
Light can elevate your mood, and there’s usually more light available outside than indoors. Research has found that just five minutes of “green exercise”—or moving your body outdoors in nature—can lead to improvements in self-esteem and mood.2
- It has a calming effect on your body’s fight-or-flight response.
Being in a noisy environment is another way to overwhelm our brains. The special silence nature can provide, or even soft nature sounds, can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.4
- It gives you a dose of vitamin D.
As soon as sunlight hits your skin, your body begins processing its own Vitamin D, which studies suggest can help protect the body and brain from many things including osteoporosis, cancer, depression, heart attacks, and stroke.2
How can you make green exercise work for you?
There are no rules when it comes to moving in nature. It could be as simple as a daily walk in a park or a Saturday afternoon on a local trail. Even a 20- to 30-minute walk a few days a week is a great way to get started.
A MOBE Guide can help you find even more ways to move toward better health and more happiness. Get started today.
1. David G. Pearson and Tony Craig. “The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments.” Frontiers in Psychology no. 5 (October 2014): 1178.
2. “A prescription for better health: Go al fresco.” Harvard Health Letter.
3. “5 reasons to exercise outdoors this winter.” Mayo Clinic.
4. “Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature.” Harvard Men’s Health Watch.