Fitting in some nature, or vitamin N, may just be the secret to unlocking a better mood, faster metabolism and stronger memory. Poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said, “Why, nature is but another name for health.” Research has shown that early-morning cardio in a fasted state can burn up to 20 percent more calories; however hitting the grass versus the treadmill provides a number of further benefits that may just surprise you.
In Japan there is a phrase “shinrin-yoku,” this was made by the Japanese government in 1982 to encourage enjoyment of nature, it translates to “forest bathing.” The goal is to realize the health benefits of living in the moment and immersing yourself in the sensory experiences of nature. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t benefit from some time in nature. You do not need to do an intense workout to reap the benefits of “forest bathing” you just need to be in nature and breathe in the fresh air and the benefits are wonderful.
Here are some other reasons we suggest you stop to bathe in the forest:
Beat belly fat: Research shows that people who live near trees and parks have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva than those who live in a concrete jungle. A Japanese study found that a forest walk can render a 12 percent decrease in cortisol levels, a seven percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity (which would contribute to anxiety), a one percent decrease in blood pressure, and a five percent decrease in heart rate. The more you can get yourself into a green space, the better it is for your body composition — and sanity, for that matter.
Fight “Technostress”: The common combination of stress and screen time can really have an impact on your body and mind, resulting in negative tension called “technostress.” Some many of us can’t escape this. We spend the day on computers and often can’t escape the allure of our own devices at home. Some symptoms of technostress include headache, fatigue, chest pain, and trouble sleeping. These issues can be alleviated by spending time outdoors. Take a break from your tech – go for a short walk (preferably in nature).
Go green to beat the blues: Forget retail therapy, try nature therapy. I recently saw an anonymous quote posted that said, “There’s no Wi-Fi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection,” and I couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re having a bad day, or a tough year, seeking out an area with a lot of greenery has been shown to improve both mood and memory in depressed individuals. In one Michigan study, participants exhibited significant increases in memory span and mood after walks in nature versus urban walks. This is perhaps why many people battle the cottage traffic every Friday night to spend a couple of days in the great outdoors before heading back into the city for another week in the grind. If you don’t have a cottage escape, look up some local trails. It’s an inexpensive, instantly gratifying and calorie-free way to lift your mood. Toronto people, we have loads of amazing trails…check out this link for inspiration.
Combat brain fog: If you’re drawing a blank with a project at work, a study from Scotland suggests getting outside for a walk in the park. Researchers took volunteers through three areas: a historic shopping district with old buildings and light traffic, a park-like setting and a busy commercial district with heavy traffic while they wore portable EEGs on their heads to relay their brain waves. While the participants were in the commercial area they produced brain wave patterns conducive with frustration versus the parkland that showed patterns similar to meditation.
The great thing about walking is that it can help you to better cope with stress. The Journal of Anxiety, Stress and Coping (March 2018) published a study involving 75 participants (who were not athletes) who took part in a walk prior to a Trier Social Stress Test for Groups (TSST-G). During the walk, fitness was assessed by monitoring heart rates. A further 89 participants took part in the TSST-G without the walk. Stress responsiveness was assessed using salivary cortisol collected at 10-minute intervals on seven occasions. Between the two groups, the walking group had a significantly lower cortisol secretion than the non-walking group.
Help nurture creativity: Between our iPhones, laptops and tablets we’re continuously plugged in. However, spending time away from battery-operated devices and in nature has been linked to a 50 percent increase in creativity, something scientists refer to as attentional restoration theory.
Sleep more soundly: If you find yourself doing everything right and still tossing and turning at night, head outdoors for a walk down your favourite nature trail. Researchers found that forest walking improved actual sleep time, immobile minutes, self-rated depth of sleep and sleep quality. And for even better results, according to the study, you should aim to have this walk later in the day versus earlier.
Get green at home: If you live in the city and you can only escape on the weekends, there are many benefits to adding a little greenery around the house and the office. According to researchers at Kansas State University, adding plants to hospital rooms speeds recovery rates of surgical patients. Compared to patients in rooms without plants, patients in rooms with plants request less pain medication, have lower blood pressure, experience less stress, and are released from the hospital sooner.
Do yourself and those around you a favour and get in touch with nature. A short 15-20minutes will seriously change your mood and stress level – we promise!