Our modern lives have us spending an increasing amount of time indoors, and we're becoming stressed, sick, and unhappy as a result. Thankfully, there's an incredibly healthy choice that everyone can make to turn that trend around: go outside.
Humans, like all other animals, evolved to exist in nature, so it's no small surprise that spending time outdoors has so many benefits for us. We aren't meant to be kept in tiny enclosures, breathing stale air and working in harsh, artificial light.
In 1916, the National Geographic Society was instrumental in persuading the U.S. government to create the National Park Service to care for and safeguard these important natural places.
"Today, parks are more critical now than ever," says Chris Johns, Chief Content Officer for National Geographic. "They connect us to natural world and inspire us all to be better stewards of our only home. That's why we continue to explore and support the power of parks, as the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary."
Whether you explore parks through the National Park Service or National Geographic (or both!), simply getting outside can do wonders for your health and well-being.
Here are just eight of the many things that heading outside and being an active part of this amazing planet can do for you.
1. Reduce stress levels
Feeling tense? Spending time walking through the woods has been shown to boost chemicals in the body responsible for decreasing inflammation and stress. Because stress is such a high risk factor for early death, this benefit from nature is absolutely huge.
2. Restore the body's natural sleep rhythm
Viewing artificial light all day from fluorescent bulbs, computer screens, and mobile devices can confuse the brain about when it is supposed to rest and when it is supposed to be awake. Just a week of camping without any flashlights or cell phones can reboot the body's circadian rhythm, allowing you to sleep more soundly at night and wake more well-rested.
3. Improve your vision
Going outside is great for your vision, and research has shown that it can even decrease nearsightedness because there is so much to see at a variety of distances. Regardless of how much indoor time is spent reading or doing activities up close, each hour spent outside relates to a 2 percent decrease in myopia for children.
4. Boost your creativity
There's so much amazing biodiversity on Earth, it's no wonder that humans draw on the sights and sounds of nature after spending time outside. One study found that getting rid of technology and spending time with nature increases a person's ability to solve creative problems.
5. Increase brain stimulation
Research has shown that strolling through nature can stimulate activity in the brain, increasing a person's ability to concentrate and think critically. Need a pick me up during work? Take a lunch break by walking outside near some trees and come back to finish the day strong.
6. Improve general health
Though our indoor lives have become much more sedentary, going outside can have incredible advantages for the immune system. Vitamin D from the sun is great for bone health, and the additional exercise is great for combatting obesity and encouraging overall wellness.
7. Increase energy levels
On the days when it seems impossible to stay awake, going outside works wonders that just can't compare to a cup of coffee. Being out in natural sunlight for as little as 20 minutes each day can be completely invigorating and crush fatigue.
8. Improve your mood
Studies have shown that people generally feel much happier after spending time outside. While the actual mechanism that causes this effect isn't clear, we think there's plenty to smile about when you're enjoying the amazing sights, sounds, and smells of nature.
Inspired by the power of parks? Ready to make a healthy change in life? Get outside and enjoy!
Cover image: Shutterstock