Next time you find yourself sick, run down, or even stuck with a broken leg — seek no more than to spend some time immersed in the outdoors. No matter the ache or pain, nature is healing: being outside among the trees and fresh air can truly do your body good. Here are the ways that nature can have a positive impact on your body — from your heart to your limbs.
1) Boosts immune system
Need an extra kick to your strength and energy so you can tackle your next project or adventure? Get outside if you want an increase of your white blood cells, which bolster your immune system and help fight off infections. In one study, researchers found that men who took two-hour walks in a forest over the course of two days saw a 50 percent increase in white blood cells afterwards, meaning their natural shields from illness were stronger compared to men who didn’t walk in nature.
2) Improves heart health
If you want to protect your most important organ, go no further than your backyard. Because it’s so relaxing, nature lowers your heart rate as well as your blood pressure, and reduces your risk of heart disease, according to one study, which compared and contrasted the effects of walking in the city and walking in a forest. (You might guess who fared better afterwards — definitely the people who walked in the woods). This is why some Japanese people take part in Shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing, as a therapy for better health.
3) Triggers physical activity, fights sedentary lifestyle
When you’re outdoors, and you get that boost of energy, you’re way more likely to end up walking, running, swimming, or hiking than if you were cooped up indoors on your computer or watching TV. There’s just so much to explore outside; this jumpstarts your physical activity. And if there’s anything you can be certain about in life, it’s that exercise is one of the best things you can possibly do to make you healthier and happier — it reduces stress, improves organ and brain function, and lengthens your lifespan.
4) Reduces mortality
There’s something called “nature-deficit disorder,” and it’s a problem you may experience if you live in a big city: lacking the aesthetic greenery, peace, and respite that nature brings can actually have a negative impact on your mind and health. Researchers have actually found that sitting in front of a screen all day shortens your lifespan, while being outside reverses that. So get out there, plant some trees, and live longer!
5) Reduces pain, speeds up recovery
Got a migraine or knee pain after running? Or maybe you’re recovering from an operation. Spending more time in nature will help you cope with that and restore your strength faster. One study examined gallbladder surgery patients, half of whom had a view of trees and half of whom had a view of a wall. Those who could look at trees — and be absorbed by the pretty views — experienced less pain, had fewer adverse effects post-surgery, and left the hospital sooner than those who stared at a wall.
So next time you’re in need of some natural healing and recovery, get outside: whether to exercise or simply enjoy the view. Your body will thank you for it.