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How getting outside can help you (and your mind) get fit

Embrace the Outdoors: How Nature Nurtures Your Body and Mind.

Being in nature can be one of life’s simple pleasures. Lying in a shaded spot in a park, feeling cool blades of grass against our skin, catching a breeze with the scent of spring. Whether we live in a crowded city or on a remote farm, we all have the ability to experience the great outdoors. And when we do, moving our body can be good for us, too. Studies have shown that simply walking outside (compared to a treadmill inside) can bring us more joy.

Why being outside is good for your health

Many of us can relate to feeling better once we’re able to step outside and take a deep breath. It turns out that breathing in outdoor air can do more for our health than we might realize. Research shows that stress levels can decrease significantly after spending just 15 minutes out and about in green spaces. What’s more, the benefits of green spaces extend all the way to helping us live longer: one study found that participants who lived closest to large amounts of green spaces or areas of vegetation — including in urban green areas — had a 12% lower mortality rate than those who did not.

Bringing a sense of awareness when we’re outside — whether running on a trail in a forest or walking down a bustling city street — is an opportunity to slow our mind and bring our attention to what we’re experiencing in the moment. Outside, we’re able to decreased stress and gain a better ability to focus. 

When we’re mindful, we’re not walking around lost in thought; we are present, observing our surroundings, in terms of the sights, sounds, and smells around us and how they make us feel. We are, in short, more connected to the world around us. 

The benefits of outdoor activities

While spending time outside is beneficial on its own, these physical activities can help both body and mind thrive:

  • Walking.

One study found that people who walk have lower stress levels. And when we focus our attention through a walking meditation, we’re able to take it one step further, literally — bringing body and mind in sync to train our mind in awareness while we move.

  • Running.

Research shows that when we run outside, we flex our ankles more, vary our movements, and use different muscles than we would on a treadmill. Running outside doesn’t only have benefits for our body, but for our mind, too. Unlike a treadmill where we run in place, running outside forces us to focus on our next steps and obstacles in our way to get us to the finish.

  • Gardening.

Exercise isn’t the only option for reaping the health benefits of spending time outside. Gardening is another way to focus our attention on what we’re experiencing outdoors, specifically the beauty, change, and growth that a garden shows us. Caring for a garden can also be an exercise in gratitude, a practice that can lead us to an overall sense of happiness and well-being.

In a world filled with hustle and bustle, reconnecting with nature is our chance to slow down, breathe deeply, and savor the simple joys of the great outdoors. Whether it’s a leisurely walk in the park, a refreshing run along a forest trail, or the therapeutic act of gardening, nature offers us more than just scenery. It’s a natural remedy for stress, a path to heightened awareness, and a gateway to a healthier, happier life. So, step outside, embrace the green spaces, and let the wonders of nature nurture your body and soul. Your well-being will thank you for it, one step at a time.

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