Have you ever noticed how you feel happier and more refreshed after spending some time in nature? That is no coincidence. Research has proven that spending time outside is associated with good health and overall wellbeing.
While modern amenities have undoubtedly made life easier on many accounts, life today is unlike any other point in history. Over the course of the past 200 years, workers have migrated from workplaces like fields and farms to factories and offices. On the one hand, working indoors protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet sun rays. On the other hand, however, today’s indoor lifestyles can be harmful to physical and mental health.
It is more important now than ever before to prioritize outdoor time. In return, individuals will find they are happier, less stressed, and even more, protected against cancer.
Here’s how spending time outdoors can improve one’s health:
- More exercise!
While being outside is not a guarantee of being active, spending time outdoors is associated with more activity than indoor living. Activities such as strolling through the park, swimming at the beach, gardening, and bike riding increase the heart rate and get the body moving. Children, in particular, are more likely to get exercise outdoors than indoors.
Getting exercise is a great way to build muscle and feel good, but it can also protect against many types of cancers, including cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, kidney, and stomach. Regular exercise can prevent obesity, a risk factor for many cancers. It can also improve immune system function, control hormones related to cancer growth, and prevent high blood glucose levels of insulin.
- The body may heal faster.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh reported that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. Another study showed that the view out the window (trees vs. a brick wall) affected patient recovery. A body that is well equipped to heal itself is beneficial in all circumstances, but cancer patients may find it particularly helpful, especially if undergoing surgery.
- Lower blood pressure and less stress
Walking among the trees can lower blood pressure and reduce the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Stress is an uncomfortable response to deal with, but it can be worse yet. Studies suggest that stress hormones may awaken dormant cancer cells that remain in the body after treatment, meaning there is a link between stress and cancer coming back. Additionally, cancer patients are more likely to experience stress in relation to their current situation. Reducing stress hormones can positively impact the quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer and their families.
- Soak up Vitamin D
So long as the skin is protected from extended exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays (thank you, sunscreen!), the sun can nourish the body with Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium and phosphorus to make strong bones and teeth. Research suggests that women with low levels of Vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer. It is believed that Vitamin D plays a role in controlling normal breast cell growth and may stop breast cancer cells from growing.
- Improved mood
Perhaps the most immediate benefit to spending time outdoors is a scientifically proven good mood. Researchers have found that nature simply makes us happy and decreases anxiety, depression, and anger. Tragically, cancer patients are more likely to experience these symptoms than the general population. A quick mood boost can be exceptionally beneficial to patients and their loved ones. However, it is important to remember that depression is a serious condition and should be discussed with a professional as early as possible.