The Outdoor Recreation Participation Report indicates that over 142 million Americans, or 48.4 of the U.S. population, participated in an outdoor activity at least once in the year previous. The most popular activities included running and walking, though many people also enjoy camping, boating, and other adventure-style activities.
Being in the Great Outdoors is vital, not only for adults but for children, too. Research shows that adults who were introduced to nature as kids are more likely to participate in outdoor activities as adults.
In this post, we focus on the important benefits of getting outdoors for people of all ages.
Nature-Deficit Disorder and its Effect on Concentration
Author of international bestseller Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv, coined a term that is often used these days in the scientific literature: “nature deficit disorder.”
In essence, Louv and other academics argue, many children in America spend less than an hour outside playing every day. Their vital relationship with nature has been destroyed, with negative effects in terms of behavior and concentration in class.
Louv notes, “Researchers at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle determined that each hour of TV watched per day by preschoolers increases by 10 percent the likelihood that they will develop concentration problems and other symptoms of attention-deficit disorders (ADDs) by age seven.”
The value of unstructured, untethered time in nature, says the author, is priceless.
Of course, there are other ways we can boost concentration naturally, including mindfulness activities such as yoga, getting a good night’s sleep every night, and taking nootropics to improve brain function by reducing stress and anxiety and promoting restful sleep. The list of nootropics is fast and includes everything from caffeine (which increases alertness) to Ginkgo Biloba (proven to slow mental decline and improve sleep quality)
What Can Outdoors Time Do for Adults and Children?
Spending time in nature has countless health benefits, including raising our Vitamin D levels, and ensuring kids and adults enjoy a wide space in which to run and enjoy the unstructured play, sport, and activities.
However, the mental benefits of time spent in Mother Nature, are also notable. They include:
Better concentration: Research has found that children with ADHD seem to focus better after they have spent time in a natural setting. Meanwhile, studies on adults have shown improved performance levels simply from working in a green environment.
Stress reduction: Study after study has shown that natural environments have a significant ability to lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Chronic stress is linked to everything from anxiety to depression, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes, so taking part in sport and nature-based activities can be seen as an important preventive measure for greater health.
Uplifted mood: In 2010, scientists at the University of Essex in England found that just five minutes of green exercise improved self-esteem and mood.
Those who already have a great relationship with nature know how important it is to their wellbeing, mood, and happiness. It is easier to reap mental health benefits and tighten one’s bonds with loved ones than many of us realize; all we need to do is put our sporting gear on, open the door, and head out into a world that is filled with wonder and adventure.
If you are in need of help with your mental health, consider talking to a therapist at BetterHelp.