Do this one thing for a BETTER IMMUNE SYSTEM
Being in nature can slash stress, rev energy, and strengthen your health in ways doctors never imagined. Here’s how to score all the perks that going alfresco has to offer.
You know from experience that spending time outdoors makes you feel great. In fact, communing with nature has been proved to lower stress, rally your energy, upgrade your mood, and improve your blood pressure and heart rate. Now, researchers are discovering that nature accomplishes all this good work in a surprising way: by making your immune system healthier. When you’re indoors, they explain, you have to tune out a dozen distractions (other people talking, your phone, the TV) to focus on what you’re doing, and that mental discipline requires a huge amount of effort. When you’re around greenery, your mind is free to drift at will. That means your body has more power to invest in important functions like strengthening your immunity, according to a review in Frontiers in Psychology.
“Nature flips your system’s switch from fight-or-flight mode to rest-and-digest mode,” says Ming Kuo, director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “When you’re relaxed, the body has an opportunity to recover.” Mentally, you have a chance to let go of the tension that’s been building, boosting your mood and energy.
The effects of nature are so powerful that some doctors, such as Dr Nooshin Razani of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, are prescribing time outdoors for patients. “We’re developing protocols that blend nature interventions with medical practice,” she says.
Obviously, you know how to go outside, but the experts say there’s more to reaping the benefits than that. Here, they explain.
GIVE IT AT LEAST 10 MINUTES A quick fix is all you need to improve your
ability to focus, according to researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. Any area with trees or greenery will do the trick, so take a walk through a park or spend some time in your backyard.
If you step outside in the morning, you’ll amplify the perks even more. Morning light has been shown to reset your body clock, which stabilises energy levels, revs your metabolism, and starts your day on a zen note.
LET YOUR WORKOUT BREAK FREE People who exercise outdoors tend to enjoy it
more and go longer than those who stick to the gym, research shows. Besides the obvious uplift of being in prettier surroundings, it’s possible that the dose of vitamin D and reduction in cortisol, a stress hormone, play a part as well, experts say.