This Easter Long Weekend may have you feeling motivated to spend time in Nature and the Great Outdoors and with good reason. Time spent outdoors is associated with lower chronic disease risk (1) and beyond exercise, there is a myriad of ways in which spending time outdoors can be of benefit. Whether it’s utilising local green space and parklands or going a little further afield to the beach or the bush, getting in those 10,000 steps is easier to achieve when exploring your surrounds. Your eyesight, mental health and social wellbeing can also get a great workout along the way.
Moving more, naturally
It is well known that physical activity improves both physical/physiological and mental/psychological well-being, but while many of us understandably choose to slog it out at the gym, there are additional health benefits that appear to occur when exercise is performed in an outdoor environment. (2) Findings indicate that there is an overall reduction in sedentary time associated with being outdoors, alongside an increased amount of time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity. (1)
Bright Eyes and Better Sleep
Getting your eyes moving is also important. There is solid evidence that exposure to brighter light can reduce the risk of myopia (short-sightedness). (3) It is now well established that spending more time outdoors during childhood lowers the risk of developing myopia and may also delay its progression. Being out in Nature truly is a feast for the senses and ensuring good development and maintenance of our sense of sight also coincides with entrained circadian rhythms, (3) meaning that better sleeping patterns can occur simply from our eyes getting exposure to natural sunlight – ideally first thing in the morning.
Better Headspace in Greenspace
Regular use of natural environments for leisure activities lowers the risk of mental health issues overall, with enhanced mood and improvements in attentional capacity and cognitive capacity demonstrated. (4) Motivation to exercise more regularly also appears to be affected by the environmental setting.
In a small study comparing obese women in their experience of treadmill walking vs outdoor walking, greater enjoyment and future intention to participate was reported in the outdoor walking group. (5) In a separate study, social interaction time was greater during outdoors exercise vs indoors and this positively influenced intention for future exercise outdoors. (6)
An Ocean of Good Energy
Beach environments are seen to promote families’ health and wellbeing. Positive relationships with nature and beaches encourage physical activity and active play for kids and provide stress relief as well as increased social and family interaction. (7) With exposure to natural environments found to enhance caring behaviours, and physical activities such as horse riding, walking and fishing improving self-esteem, (4) time outdoors is an important element of raising healthy children and ensuring quality family leisure time.
Find your Happy Place
From your headspace to your sense of place, Mother Nature has something to offer everyone to improve wellbeing and is likely to put a smile on your face! What better prescription than to spend time outdoors – just make sure to invest in some wet weather gear – it is Easter after all!