Just as you found that your parents were right when they told you to "eat your green vegetables", you probably found out that they were also right when they told you to "spend more of your time outdoors". However, the reasons for why your parents were right about being outdoors are not as obvious as the reasons why eating green vegetables is healthy. Of course putting healthy foods into your body will make you healthier, but why does being outdoors improve your life? This article describes several of the reasons that answer the aforementioned question and unfortunately once again shows how right your parents were when you were growing up.
Lower Blood Pressure
Research that was conducted back in 2010 suggests that forest dwelling or "forest bathing" can actually decrease the levels of unhealthy cortisol in the body and lower blood pressure. Amazingly, as well, being present in nature can lower one's pulse rate. In this study, twenty-four forests were used to assess how the health effects of twelve subjects were changed due only to the presence of being in the woods.
Reduced Psychological Issues
In a 2015 study, Stanford researchers have shown that students and faculty who walked near green pastures of the Stanford campus were much happier and motivated after the walk compared to those who did not experience the pastures. This does not explain the exact mechanism of how the subject's thoughts were changed, but does show that an effect occurs. However, it is hypothesized that nature soothes the part of the brain that is constantly trying to identify the aspects with one's self that are wrong and need improving.
Healthier Immune System
The immune system is used to fight off ailments and viruses such as the common cold, the flu, and infections. A 2010 study suggests that being in nature or in forested areas can boost the immune system such that it can more effectively fight off external ailments. One undisputed mechanism of this boost in the immune system is the increase in Vitamin D from the sun. Increasing exposure to the sun by ten to fifteen minutes can increase the levels of Vitamin D in the body.
Being in nature requires using energy to be attentive to the surroundings, traveling over uneven surfaces, and having to use many muscles at the same time. Therefore, it is not surprising that perusing through nature aids in weight loss. As well, if one is in nature for an extended period of time, then taking in calories can be more difficult and create more opportunities for expending more calories than one eats. This leads to weight loss.
Reduced Risk of Early Death
This health effect was saved for last because it encompasses the other health effects described above. While there are numerous other health effects that improve one's well-being than the ones listed in this article, the combination of all of the effects can actually extend one's lifetime. Not convinced? In 2015, a National Institutes of Health backed study showed that being exposed to green pastures lowered the risk of death by twelve percent compared to a person living in more industrialized areas.
This article described several reasons why wilderness therapy may increase one's health. It should be noted that there are many more positive health effects of being outdoors than are described in this article. However, hopefully after reading this article, you are more convinced of the positive effects of being in the wilderness and will at least think about using the wilderness to improve your life.