The weather has cooled off, leaves have changed colors and are flying off the trees, and fall decor is making its appearance on our porches and in our homes!
Fall is here my friends!
What does this mean for those of us seeking to improve our health and well-being?
Well, it means a lot!
There are benefits to being outdoors and fall is the perfect time to get out and enjoy nature while reaping some serious health benefits.
Here are just three of the many reasons why you should be getting outside this fall:
1. Improvements in Psychological Well-Being
Researchers have studied whether a natural setting increases the psychological well-being benefits of exercise. In one study, Pretty et al found that participants' mood and self-esteem improved when they were exposed to natural scenes while running on a treadmill, therefore, suggesting that even more benefits may be experienced when exercise is performed in nature. However, we don't necessarily have to be exercising in nature in order to see improvements. Even activities such as gardening and watching wildlife have been found to promote psychological well-being in people.
2. Cognitive Benefits
The potential for improvements in cognitive performance has been shown in certain studies as well. For example, a study, that used proofreading, as a measure for cognitive performance in southern California, compared the differences between participants who vacationed in the wilderness and those that vacationed in non-wilderness destinations. This study demonstrated that those who vacationed in wilderness destinations had improvements in their proofreading ability for several weeks after their vacation while those that vacationed in non-wilderness destinations had actually declined in their proofreading performance. Another study measured cognitive performance by having participants listen to a sequence of numbers and then had them repeat those numbers back in reverse. Participants who walked through a tree-lined arboretum had greater cognitive performance as compared to those who walked through a city street.
3. Physiological Benefits
Cortisol, the stress hormone, was found to be decreased in those partaking in another study. Participants were first exposed to a stress-inducing activity. Next, they either participated in indoor reading or outdoor gardening and cortisol levels were measured after 30 minutes. However, it was found that those who participated in outdoor gardening, had significantly larger decreases in cortisol levels as compared to those who did indoor reading. Whether this larger decrease was due to the active nature of gardening or from actually being outdoors it is not absolutely certain since the control condition was passive as opposed to active.
Nevertheless, there are still other studies that have shown physiological improvements from being outdoors. For example, Richardson and Mitchell found that male cardiovascular and respiratory disease mortality rates decreased with an increase in green space. Even the simple fact of having plants in your office has been shown to produce physiological benefits for people including reductions in dry skin, hoarse throat, coughing, and fatigue (Fjeld et al.). It may be worthwhile to invest in some plants for your office so you can start cashing in on some health benefits!
There are many things that we can do to improve our health and well-being and sometimes the health goals we set aren't the easiest to achieve. Making the decision to spend more time outdoors, even if you are merely just watching nature, may be one easy way to start improving your health and well-being. Not to mention, this can be a great way to spend some quality time with the ones you love. Who knows you might even end up making a fun little video like the one below. Ha ha ha!
So, get outside and have some fun all while reaping some AWESOME health benefits!
1. Keniger, L. E., Gaston, K. J., Irvine, K. N., & Fuller, R. A. (2013). What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature? Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 10(3), 913-935.
2. Catanzaro, C., Ekanem, E. (2004). Home gardeners value stress reduction and interaction with nature. Acta Hort., 639, 269–275.
3. Curtin, S. (2009). Wildlife tourism: The intangible, psychological benefits of human-wildlife encounters. Curr. Issues Tourism, 12, 451–474.
4. Hartig, T.; Mang, M.; Evans, G.W. (1991). Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environ. Behav. 23, 3–26.
5. Berman, M.G.; Jonides, J.; Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychol. Sci., 19, 1207–1212.
6.Van den Berg, A.E.; Custers, M.H.G. (2011). Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. J. Health Psychol. 16, 3–11.
7. Richardson, E.A.; Mitchell, R. (2010). Gender differences in relationships between urban green space and health in the United Kingdom. Soc. Sci. Med. 71, 568–575.
8. Fjeld, T.; Veiersted, B.; Sandvik, L.; Riise, G.; Levy, F. (1998). The effect of indoor foliage plants on health and discomfort symptoms among office workers. Indoor Built Environ. 2, 204–209.
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