Evidence-Backed Reasons Why Spending Time Outdoors Improves Bone Health and Overall Health

BY Vivian Goldschmidt of Save Our Bones.com

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Summer is here in the Northern Hemisphere, and after winter storms and cold, dark days, most people are looking forward to warmer weather -- and itching to spend time outside again.

Savers know that time spent outdoors encourages us to engage in bone-healthy activities such as walking and jogging. But beyond getting the necessary exercise, numerous scientific studies prove that time spent outdoors benefits our well-being in a myriad of other ways.

Today we'll explore some evidence-backed solutions that demonstrate how experienceing the great outdoors supports bone health as well as overall health.

1. Boost Your Levels of the Sunshine Vitamin

You've probably heard of Vitamin D referred to as the "sunshine vitamin." This is because your body produces Vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D not only strenghens bones and reduces the risk of falling, it also helps to lower LDL cholesterol and blood sugar. Powerhouse Vitamin D has also been shown to relieve depression as well. These are just some of the many health benefits of this essential vitamin. Spending time outdoors in the sunshine wil boost your Vitamin D levels.

2. Prevent or Alleviate Depression

Most people feel better after walking outside, and there's a scientific explanation for it: nature walks alleviate depression. Researchers found that in people who suffered from major depressive disorder (MDD) their depressive symptoms improved after walking in nature. A walk in nature is one of many easy and effective ways to alleviate depression, if you're looking for natural replacements for bone-damaging antidepressants. 

3. Forest Bathing

Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. Now their research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.

The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.

We have always known this intuitively. But in the past several decades there have been many scientific studies that are demonstrating the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. (some of this research is available here). For example, many trees give off organic compounds that support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system's way of fighting cancer.
The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:

  • The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku included
  • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells.
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep

Just as impressive are the results that we are experiencing as we make this part of our regular practice:

  • Deeper and clearer intuition
  • Increased flow of energy
  • Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
  • Increased flow of eros/life force
  • Deepening of friendships
  • Overall increase in sense of happiness

4. Reduce Stress and Inflammation

Researchers have cofirmed that an immersive trip to a forest reduces levels of inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol. It sounds like an ideal way to spend the day: take a friend to hike in a forest. You can bring a picnic lunch with bone-nourshing foods and allow nature to nurture you.

5. Live Longer

The very best reason to spend time in nature? It's the simplest way to boost longevity. Researchers found that American women living in rural areas, surrounded by greenery, had a lower rate of mortality than those in more urban areas. They also believe the greenery may counterbalance negative influences such as noise and encourage physical activity and social engagement, which have been demonstrated to increase longevity.