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Outdoor Health Benefits
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The health benefits of the outdoors are being utilized less and less with each generation. Currently, the average person spends greater than 90% of their time indoors.  Think about it, most of us wake up, drive to work, work all day, and drive home to finish out our day relaxing around the house.  The average person is lucky to be outdoors walking to and from their car.  It is not uncommon for a whole week to come and go without ever being in the fresh air.  Intuitively, people know there are benefits in the fresh outdoor air, the most important being the enhanced sense of well-being fresh air can impart.  Other benefits of exercising outdoors as opposed to indoor exercise include the following:

    Beneficial effects of negative ions
    Beneficial effects of natural sunlight
    Beneficial effects of natural terrain
    Beneficial effects of reconnecting to the outdoors

It is true that too much sunlight to the point of getting burned is not healthy, but avoiding sunlight can be worse for your health.  Recent research on vitamin D shows many Americans are deficient despite fortified foods and supplementation.  Sunlight greatly increased the abundance of this vitamin which more accurately acts like a hormone.  Through its effects on Vitamin D, sunlight helps prevent cancer, bone disease, depression and many other illnesses that are now only beginning to be understood.  Also because Vitamin D can help lower and control insulin, sunlight may also play a role to helping people reach their weight loss goals.  Evidence suggests that forests and other nature areas help in people’s recovery from stress and fatigue.

Cold air on your body during the winter or warm sunlight on your face in the spring communicates valuable and appropriate information to your genes so that your body can serve you better.  Being outdoors for part of the day helps reset circadian rhythms and balances hormones and promotes weight loss.

Encouraging young children to be active outdoors is important for their physical, mental and social development.  Another possible mechanism relating nature to health is that of social interaction and forming relationships.

Research shows the benefits of just a little big of greenery goes way beyond a momentary mood boost - they can have a profound effect on your health.  Evidence suggests that forest and other nature areas help in people’s recovery from stress and fatigue.  The more often one visits green area, the less often one reports sickness from stress.

Plants and trees are like living, breathing air filters.  They detoxify the air by absorbing many substances that can be harmful to humans, like excess carbon dioxide and dust particles.  They also create oxygen, which we need to live and to function.  NASA researchers conducted a study years ago, which found that having just two houseplants per 100 square feet of space removed toxins and dramatically improved air quality in a house.

Exercising on a natural surface imparts tremendous benefit to your musculoskeletal system.  In order to continue to improve musculoskeletal health uneven or natural terrain like grass fields, trails, hills, and other obstacles should be utilized.  This can significantly decrease the risk of foot, ankle and knee injuries.

A variety of research has identified these startling facts:  20 percent of our four year olds are overweight and 8.5 percent of six year olds and 15 percent of 15 year olds are obese.  Obesity is linked to increasing less physical lifestyle and a reduction in outdoor activity.

The most sought after experiences are mainly enjoying the natural scenery, peace and quiet.

The results suggest that exposure to nature areas increases positive emotions while negative emotions decrease only when exposure to natural areas is relatively high.  Multiple studies point to a link between plants and improved physical health.  Patients who could see trees and other greenery from their hospital window required less pain medication than those who didn’t have a green view.  Just visually experiencing a natural setting can be shown to reduce stress.  Stress relief, as measured through muscle tension, blood pressure and electrical brain activity, can be demonstrated within some minutes of exposure to a green environment.

People with special needs such as the elderly or those with physical or mental disabilities often gain therapeutic benefits from activities conducted in natural environments.  Activities such as recreational walking and cycling have a positive effect on health.

Safe, clean spaces encourage people to walk more and therefore offer significant health benefits.  Some doctors are even prescribing a walk in the park to aid patient’s health as it has been proven to reduce the risk of a heart attack by 50 percent.  Diabetes by 50 percent, colon cancer by 30 percent, and fracture of the femur by up to 40 percent.  If done as part of a group, walking offers social benefits, too.

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