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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Emotional Health

Why Getting Outside is So Good for You

Are You Nature-Deprived?

-- By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
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John Keats once wrote, "The poetry of the earth is never dead."

Poet or not, almost all of us have been awestruck by nature at one time or another. Whether it's running at sunset on a sandy white beach, walking alongside a cool trickling stream, watching sunset over a mountain ridge, or even hearing the wind blow through the trees in the morning, being outdoors and aware of the world's beauty can make you feel energized and alive. Recently, much research has focused on the so-called "nature connection," and how it affects our health, outlook and overall life.

Nature's Healing Powers
It seems that just being out in nature does your body, mind and soul some good. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the closer you live to nature, the healthier you're likely to be. The study took an objective look at 345,143 Dutch people's medical records, assessing health status for 24 conditions, including cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological diseases. The records were then correlated with how much green space was located within 1 kilometer and 3 kilometers of a person's postal code. And what did researchers find? People who lived within 1 kilometer of a park or a wooded area experienced less anxiety and depression than those who lived farther away from green space.

Additionally, people living in urban environments had a higher prevalence of 15 of the 24 conditions, with the relationship strongest for anxiety disorder and depression. It's interesting to note that the green space's health benefits were only found when they were within a kilometer (not 3 kilometers away), except for anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal digestive disorders and other medically unexplained physical symptoms, according to the research.

Live in a city with no green space nearby? No worries! Other studies by researchers in England and Sweden have found that joggers who exercise in a natural green setting with trees, foliage and landscape views, feel more restored, and less anxious, angry and depressed than those runners who burn the same amount of calories in gyms or other urban settings. So even if you have to drive a few miles to find a little green, it's worth it!

Why Does Nature Do the Body So Good?
So what is it about nature that makes us so much healthier? And what is about outdoor exercise that is better than working out in a gym? While there are many theories as to why being in nature makes us healthier, one leading hypothesis is that being outside increases our Vitamin D intake.
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • I am encouraged to go outside more after reading this article. I spend way too much time inside. - 7/20/2014 12:36:11 AM
  • I make every effort to go outside everyday no matter what the weather is like. Rainy days - I have an umbrella at my desk at work as well as one in my car/home; colder weather I dress appropriately so I can enjoy the outdoors. My lunch breaks always consist of taking a walk; I walk to/from the train station (approx. .83 mile) at work; my husband and I have even started taking walks around the block (approx. 3 miles) and today not only did we take the 3 mile walk but we are planning on walking to church and back which is 1.2 miles one way. Taking breaks and walking also rejuvenates the brain/soul to move forward for the rest of the day. - 6/28/2014 3:14:53 PM
  • This blog was a gold nugget me. Scientific terms and research emphasized what I have felt in my bones all my life. Thank you Jennifer.

    I was brought up helping with our garden, walking to school with friends, mowing lawns etc. Summer camping on Lake Memphremagog and Lake Wallace made my summer. I have continued all my life to walk. At present I walk around the reservoir, smell the earth and woods and enjoy every morning as my dog and I go out for an early morning walk.
    I have slimmed down but most important, my arthritis is stabilizing.
    Keep walking. Continuing to walk and live in the beauty of God's cration are my blessings.
    Nancy - 5/30/2014 10:08:18 AM
  • I live in near several parks, but I walk in my neighborhood, which is nice to walk in. - 4/29/2014 4:35:54 PM
  • I am fortunate to live in the magnificent Rocky Mtns of CO. I have trouble getting "out the door", but once I do, I love it. A new hobby, genealogy, is tying me to my computer doing research, so I will have to develop boundaries to balance my day: indoors and outdoors. Great article -- I'm glad to learn how important health-wise the outdoors really is to my good health. Turn off the computer & get OUT the door! - 4/19/2014 10:53:02 AM
  • I am fortunate to live in a place where you want to be outside every day no matter what. When I am stressed I head out for a long walk with my dog and breathe in the fresh air and the beauty and by the time I return I am calmer and better able to carry on with my day.
    I find that walking through pine or spruce woodlands the most relaxing and healing. I believe it has a lot ot do with the smell ................. - 4/9/2014 3:59:53 PM
  • I just recently had a Cochlear Implant done and my hearing has improved so much. I loved being outdoors in the sun before, but now my enjoyment has been definitely enhanced. It has been years since I have been able to hear the birds sings, the squirrels talk, the leaves rustle, and the most wonderful sound of all is the crickets. I love them! To those who have good hearing, please take in and totally enjoy every beautiful sound of nature. When you loose the ability to hear nature, you loose something so precious. God bless and have a wonderful nature-filled day. - 3/31/2014 8:32:34 AM
  • The sun is shining in Houston today. Thank God! It has been so gray and gloomy . . . and cold. I look forward to getting out in it and walking around the office building a couple times today. - 3/6/2014 10:13:25 AM
  • I truly believe this. I'm fortunate to commute by ferry and then take a walk before work along San Francisco Bay. Best is when there is a beautiful sunrise. - 1/13/2014 8:05:41 AM
  • LARRYCT1
    Great article - love being outside.
    A lot more really good stuff on www.justgoutside.
    com if youre interested in knowing more.
    - 1/10/2014 9:06:40 PM
  • I am so thankful that I live in a rural area of the county. Slowly the area is being built up but for now we have quiet in the evenings and space for a garden. - 12/27/2013 11:47:53 AM
  • In the good weather I love to be outside but in the bitter cold not for me ! - 12/21/2013 8:47:49 PM
  • I love to be outside. The summer is the best. I have my garden and I love working in my yard with my flowers. I love walking outside breathing in God fresh air. I just walk and thank him for letting me be able to enjoy another day he has made. - 12/17/2013 10:22:22 AM
  • We live in a rural area, but sometimes it is still hard to get beyond our yard. It's not really safe to walk alone. There are quite a few hunting seasons, and even with hunter's orange I don't feel quite at ease in the woods those days - plus I suspect hunters would rather I wasn't interfering with their hunt anyway. Living near a highway, even though not a super highway, is still dangerous due to fast moving vehicles. And last, we do have to drive to get anywhere, so we spend plenty of time in the car instead of walking where we need to go. However, there certainly are many green views and opportunities to enjoy our yard. It's great to read that it doesn't take oodles of space to reap the benefits of natural surroundings. - 12/16/2013 9:27:58 PM
  • I would spend all my time, sleep too, outside if, if what? so why don"t I? convenience is the only excuse I can think of. - 12/10/2013 12:11:42 AM