Surprising Health Benefits from Spending Time Outside

River Conservation

By Phil Lehman

Wellness in the Wild

Time spent in the wild, fishing, rafting, camping, whatever, is doing more for your health than you may realize. Sure, being in the outdoors makes us all feel good, but is it just a feeling, or is it a change in our physiology. The Japanese call it shinrin yoku, “forest bathing”, and studies find that your time spent in the wild is having a positive effect on your health. We’re talking health benefits like strengthened immune systems, lower blood pressure, decreased stress, increased focus and memory, just to name a few. This should come as no surprise seeing as we are creatures of the Earth, the Earth gave rise to our species just as all other native species of flora and fauna. Returning to our roots, so to speak, is rejuvenating our bodies. But how?

Immune System Benefits

river and trees

Turns out, fresh air is exactly what the doctor ordered. Literally. You see, plants produce airborne chemicals (phytoncides) to protect from insects and disease. These chems carry antibacterial and antifungal properties that when breathed in by us homo sapiens, trigger an increase in production of white blood cells. Particular white blood cells that fight off virus and tumor infected cells. Just taking a weekend trip down the river can boost your immune system for up to 30 days. Regularly finding time to be outdoors can cure cancer. Well, maybe not. It’s being researched. But hey, can’t hurt to tell the spouse.

Mood and Blood Pressure Benefits

blood pressure cuff

All that time your spending watching trees pass on the riverbank is lowering your blood pressure. Forget the low cholesterol Cheerios, tree watching is where it’s at. We believe this is due to the reduced level of stress we manage when out on the river. The sounds of nature shift the nervous system into a state of relaxation, just as the awe-inspiring sights calm the soul. One of the most tremendous findings to support this hypothesis was the reduced levels of salivary cortisol found in those who spend frequent time in nature. Stress restricts blood flow which can impact an array of bodily irregularities, so keeping stress down is a huge contributing factor to overall health. And not only does rowing down the river regulate blood pressure and stress, but studies show a reduction in anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, and an increase in energy. Wanna get more done around the house? Then spend more time away from home.

Focus and Memory Benefits

camera lens focusing

Attention fatigue is a thing. A real thing. Attention fatigue is a thing… Oh wait, I already said that. Seems that putting our attention aside and just being in nature can really turn our focus around. In fact, even children with ADHD show improved focus from spending time in natural environments. So much so, that the use of natural environments is being experimented with as supplemental treatment for ADHD. Get kids outside and let ‘em play. Hmm, what a novel idea.

It’s Time to Take Your Medicine

More energy, more immunity, less stress, less ventricular pressure, more fun in the sun! Sounds like some sound science! We could all do with a little more time out on the river, an escape from the walls that confine, and sometimes, define us. Arm yourselves with science and let your significant other know your headed into the wild. It’s for your own good.

two men fishing on a raft with cataract oars

Only have 30 minutes? Go for a walk or have lunch on a park bench.

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Comments 2

  1. Great idea. Heading to the lake for some fun in the sun today. Going out on some kayaks.

  2. Great reminder for everyone to consider getting outside more. I walk around the building where I work during my lunch and later afternoon breaks. It helps me to disconnect from the electronics and focus my thoughts. I love camping outdoors, but rarely find the time for it because of work responsibilities. I wish we could all go camping a little more.

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