We all know it: we ought to get out more. Not just in the sense of getting a wider experience of life, but also because we sense that being out-of-doors brings a positive benefit to our mental and physical well-being. That doesn’t only enhance our inner lives; it also makes us more efficient and effective workers. So, whether we are self-employed people who need to make the most of our time or employers who want the most productive workers, it pays to find ways to get everyone out in the fresh air.
Weight Loss and Exercise
You can exercise in a gym, of course. But there seems no doubt that exercising out-of-doors is easier because the incentive and rewards are more immediate. When you walk, jog, cycle or swim outside, you are giving yourself the stimulus of the ever-changing scenery and, more often than not, a pleasant climate. Because we are pre-programmed to respond to immediate rewards, it is more instinctive to go further and do more when we are in a natural environment. All parts of the body, even the eyes, seem to respond well to outdoor exercise. There is evidence from studies undertaken on school children that outdoor activity reduces the incidence of myopia more than a similar level of activity indoors.
Brain Function and Memory
It’s not just our bodies that profit from time spent outside—our brains do, as well. In one study, students were asked to repeat sequences of numbers in reverse. They then went for a walk in the countryside and repeated the test. It was found that they were better at recall after the walk than before. There also seems to be a connection between long-term exposure to nature, such as a camping trip, and better problem-solving skills, and even just a walk in a park seems to have a positive benefit for children with ADHD, in helping them to concentrate better.
In a study at the University of Michigan, students were divided into two groups. One took a walk through city streets, the other walked among trees. The nature group showed improved performance in memory tests compared to the city group.
Inflammation and Immunity
Many of the maladies that affect productivity can be laid at the door of inflammation and problems with the immune system. Aching joints, skin conditions, digestive function, or a general sense of malaise, can sometimes be caused by an inappropriate reaction of the body to stimuli, or by an immune system that is either overreacting or not reacting enough.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient when it comes to maintaining an effective immune system, as well as contributing to healthy cell growth throughout the body. The primary source of vitamin D is our own body (it is one of the few vitamins that we produce efficiently ourselves) and it uses the energy of the sun to do this. So more exposure to the sun means more vitamin D, which means better immunity and less inflammation.
Of course, some inflammation is a reaction to what we put into our bodies, so a natural diet is also important. One thing that probably doesn’t help outdoors is drinking the water we find in the park, but carrying water that has been filtered by a good system like one of the Berkey Filters gets us closer to the water our ancient ancestors drank.
Stress and Mental Health
There is plenty of evidence, both anecdotal and statistical, that spending time in a natural environment is good for people’s mental well-being. Most people can relate to the claim that being outside lifts their mood and makes them feel better. Perhaps we are responding to a primitive awareness that a varied and wooded environment is more likely to provide for our needs than a monotonous and desert one.
Studies have backed up this subjective experience. It seems that walking in the open air is positively beneficial when it comes to boosting self-esteem and lowering anxiety levels, especially when there is running water nearby. Many clinicians recommend walking in a natural environment as part of their therapy for depression.
Out and About
Everybody wants to get the best out of life, and every business depends on those who are working in it being able to give of their best. There is little doubt that one constituent of a healthy, effective life, at work or leisure, is the opportunity to be surrounded as much as possible by the sights, smells, and sounds of the natural environment.
Walter J Mcdaniel has worked in importing Home and Garden product business for over 7 years. He has a B.S. in business from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He has worked in Asia and Europe before he established his own company.