A hike through the forest can make you feel connected to nature. The sounds of the waves during a beach run can be relaxing. We know that physical activity can have a positive effect on our overall mental health, but can being in nature provide even more benefits?
Why Stay Active?
Regular physical activity can help young adults improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance, and classroom behaviors. Higher physical activity and physical fitness levels are associated with improved cognitive performance among students.
For younger adolescents and children, physical activity is built into their day through school and extracurricular activities, but as we get older, we have to put more effort into making time for movement. As adults, we tend to think that for exercise to be effective it needs to be for a long period of time, or in a fitness class or gym. But most of us can benefit from even just a daily walk. Even more so when that walk is taking place in nature.
A Walk in the Woods
Think about the last time you spent time out in nature. Maybe it was a walk through a park or a bike ride in the mountains. Think about the sights, the smells, the feel of the air or trees around you. Our senses are constantly processing our surroundings, and when we put ourselves in natural settings, our brains and bodies respond to them.
A Stanford-led study found that taking a walk in nature can actually change your brain. In the study, people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area (as opposed to a high-traffic urban setting) showed decreased activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for depression. Exercising outside can also restore mental fatigue, improve mood and self-esteem, and help to increase overall physical activity levels. Being active outdoors reduces perceived effort and allows individuals to work at higher workloads, which may help increase the amount of physical activity undertaken and motivation to continue.
Outdoor exercise can help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression and anxiety because sunshine naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood. And exercise itself produces endorphins, another feel-good hormone that boosts your mood and reduces pain. Outdoor exercise is beneficial because it gives you variety, sunshine, and stress relief.
Journey Home East Can Help
Journey Home East is the perfect fit for young women who are ready to build upon skills learned in therapeutic settings but recognize they still need guidance and support to further develop their success. Journey Home East blends a traditional home setting with positive peer and staff relationships. At Journey Home East, we believe in the value of good health and healthy hobbies, two crucial aspects of happy, successful adults. For more information please call (828) 469-0716.