What Can Nature Do for You?

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on February 26, 2016

Getting outside is good for you, new studies show.

Just being outdoors in pleasant natural surroundings can relax and refresh you in many ways. It can lower your blood pressure, improve sleep, boost your immune system and improve your mood and focus.

“We know that 20 minutes outdoors may be all you need to provide folks with health benefits, be it working in the garden, walking in the park or in a forest,” said Eva Selhub, M.D., author of Your Brain on Nature and Your Health Destiny.

For the most benefit, immerse yourself in your surroundings, said Ruth Ann Atchley, a University of Kansas psychologist.

“It is not enough to just go for a walk…please leave your cell phone at home and allow your brain to take full advantage of the time you are spending in that psychologically healthy environment.”

Interacting with technology can tire out the parts of your brain you need to be creative, focus and solve problems, Atchley said. Nature can help rejuvenate them.

Exercising outdoors is even better.

“I encourage patients to seek out activities that they really enjoy—especially walking, hiking, biking, and gardening—and to try to find a partner to help maintain motivation and accountability,” said Clifford A. Nottingham III, M.D., of Carilion Clinic Family Medicine.

"All those activities are a terrific way to improve fitness and enhance the body’s level of vitamin D,” Dr. Nottingham added.

To learn more about how nature is good for you, and how people in our region are enjoying its benefits, read our cover story in the new issue of Carilion Clinic Living magazine.