If we told you that a free and unrestricted vitamin was on the market that boosts creativity and cognitive functions, reduces stress and symptoms of depression, and increases energy and weight loss, would you take it? What is this miracle supplement? It’s vitamin N – as in Nature – and a surprising number of Americans fail to take advantage of its healing powers. Coined by writer and researcher Richard Louv in his book The Nature Principle, vitamin N is “fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit and survival.” Yet the average American spends 25% less time outdoors now than in 1987; that’s 90% of a lifetime spent cooped up indoors. A growing body of evidence supports the healing powers of the “nature prescription.” Spending time outdoors simply does a body good. Here’s how:
- Exercising outdoors seems to lead to better overall fitness levels. It may be because the sensual perks of nature (fresh air, warm sun, cool breezes, vibrant colors) lure exercisers into longer fitness sessions than those that occur indoors. Uneven and more challenging terrains may also lead to higher levels of exertion for those undertaking their cardio exercise outside. One recent study found that people who walked outside tended to move at a faster pace.
- Time outdoors also raises the level of vitamin D in one’s body. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, provides protection against bone problems, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
- Spending even short amounts of time daily in natural environments leads to improved cognitive functioning, concentration and memory. It also reduces symptoms of hyperactivity.
- Nature also seems to create heightened mental and physical energy as well as creativity, which lead to increased productivity and higher standardized test scores.
- Research has shown that being outdoors tends to increase serotonin levels, thus promoting positive mental outlooks and higher self-esteem, which in turn, decrease symptoms of depression.
- Exposure to outdoor elements – the grass and trees, flowers, bodies of water and the blue sky – promotes healing. A study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh found that hospital patients heal more quickly and report less pain than those without visual reminders of the natural world.
- People who report spending a good portion of their days outside tend to sleep better. This is probably due to the fact that natural light helps regulate the body’s internal rhythm and hormone balances.
When you get right down to it, there isn’t a single other prescription on the market that promotes overall health and well being better than vitamin N. As the state of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative advertises:
Breath in that fresh air. Get a little dirty. Explore the world around you. Experience Nature.
Start with your local National Get Outdoors Day on June 14, 2014. There are 157 events scheduled nation-wide that day – Denver’s 7th annual event, emceed by our very own Coach Stacy, will take place at City Park downtown from 9:00-4:00 and feature the inaugural running of the GO Play 5K. We hope to see you there!
“What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology? How can each of us help create that life-enhancing world, not only in a hypothetical future, but right now, for our families and ourselves?”
- Richard Louv, The Nature Principle