Since the beginning of time, nature has been used for its restorative value. Taoist created gardens to improve human health, a 17th century guide advises readers to ‘spare time in the garden…there is no better way to preserve your health’, and there were the ancient gardens of Mesopotamia. Of course, there is John Muir’s observation,‘Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home…..that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life’.
There are many studies showing the direct positive impact nature has on humans. Certain findings have become so convincing that some mainstream health care providers and organizations have begun to promote nature therapy for illness and disease prevention. If you are curious about the healing gifts from nature visit Why Nature.
Psycho-physiological stress recovery theory suggests there is a relationship between recovery from stress and longevity, that evolution favored our ancestors who could recover from the stress by using the restorative powers of nature. Yes, climbing to a higher place so that saber-toothed tiger wouldn’t eat us is imperative to our survival, but there is evidence also that quiet encounters with natural elements could calm and help us live longer. In modern times, we see that stress can kill us is many ways, we don’t even need the tigers! So taking advantage of those quiet moments in a natural setting does help keep our genes going!
People who exercised in nature received more benefit than those who didn’t according to studies shared in Richard Louv’s book, The Nature Principle. Louv found a study that compared 2 groups of walkers, those who walked in a natural setting and those who walked in a mall. Findings from this study show that those who walked in woodlands, nears lakes, etc., found greater improvements in self-esteem and mood, including less depression. Improvements are shown to both mental and physical health. Healthcare providers are starting to realize these benefits.
As a fitness/wellness practitioner, I am glad that more people are exercising their physical body, but by adding the mind connection piece there is potential for enhancement of the whole being. Doing this in nature seems to be the natural way of approaching it. Nature naturally enhances the body and the mind. Is that redundant?
Outdoor fitness provides greater benefit to training muscles and improving our cardiovascular systems, than traditional exercise. When we move outdoors we are using our body differently than exercising indoors, we need to respond differently, often unexpectedly. The terrain is varied, the texture, slope, elements all play part in changing the playing field (pun intended). We can strengthen muscles, increase joint flexibility, increase stamina, balance and coordination more so because we aren’t just working in the sagittal plane (front to back as we typically walk), and the landscape is ever-changing. We have to keep paying attention, keep adapting. This is good. In addition, our senses are strengthened including our intellect and mental health. Our minds get a workout as well.
I have found as I’ve gotten older that it isn’t about trying to bag another peak or pack in as many miles as possible in a day. That isn’t necessarily the experience I seek while in nature. Yes, green exercise is a direction I promote and will support others in getting versus the stale, mechanical 4-walled version, but in nature self-care goes beyond the physical, restoration happens in the soul, and in the mind. There is a mind/body/nature connection, allowing for a deeper connection then any man-made structure could provide.
Sharing and talking about nature isn’t the same as actually being in nature. Nature, and one’s experience of it, is unique and intrinsic to each person. Even here we are trying to put words around the experience and feeling, but it isn’t the experience itself. The only way we ‘get’ it is to be in it. So, to get what I am saying here, you need to get out and experience it for yourself!
Choose to go into nature. Feel the value of nature, get connected, let it be part of your life. What do you get by being out in a nature? How has nature helped you, your life, your health? I would love to hear from you!
Ready to really experience nature, nurture your mind and body, reduce stress? To have your own unique guided experience in the natural world and reap the benefits, sign up for your complimentary Discovery Session. Nature is calling, and I must go.