Now get outside and do your brain and body good

There’s something about spring: Seeing the green return to the landscape and watching new life unfold always makes one feel rejuvenated. Even the air smells better in springtime, so breathe deep and fill your lungs!

“Research supports what many already feel – spending time in nature does the mind and body good,” says Amanda Shanahan, a registered dietitian nutritionist and manager of employee well-being at Univera Healthcare. She notes the following potential benefits:

            Amanda Shanahan

Protect your bones. Sunlight hitting the skin eventually leads to the creation of vitamin D in your body. It’s good protection against osteoporosis and other diseases. Just 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your bare arms and legs a few times a week is all you need. If you’re going to be out longer, put on sunscreen!

Recharge the brain. The demands of everyday life often overtax our brains and body. Time with nature is like a recharging station, allowing us to cope better with life’s stresses. Our brains don’t have to work the same way to pay attention to nature, which allows time for restoration. The possible benefits of spending time outside are a more upbeat mood, increased creativity, improved concentration, and reduced stress.

Age gracefully. Older people who get outside every day stay healthier and function better, and longer. Studies have shown those who have contact with nature have fewer complaints of aches and pains, sleep issues, or other health-related problems. And, group-oriented activities or hobbies have social health benefits. Tennis, anyone?! If that’s too rigorous, take a walk with a friend.

Move more. Americans spend 90% of their time indoors; there’s no question that most of us, including children, lead a sedentary lifestyle. You don’t need to be outdoors to be active; many people enjoy exercising indoors while they watch TV. But spending time outside means less time sitting in front of the flat screen and more time engaged in movements such as gardening, cleaning up the yard, or running around with the kids or the dog.

“With winter being so long and cold and gray here in Western New York, everyone should make the most of nature’s gift of spring by getting outdoors as soon as they can,” says Shanahan. “Just leave your cell phone and earbuds in the house so you can fully enjoy the green grass, colorful buds, early blooming flowers, and chirping birds.”

What will you do this spring to connect with nature? Whatever it is, it will do your brain and body good.

# # #