The Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

This past spring I was fortunate to have had Impact Magazine Canada reach out to me to write an article for them. The article was focused on the massive positive impact that being in the outdoors has on our health. The benefits for both our mind and our bodies is undeniable so I was pleased to be able to share this message with their readers. My article below will show you the health benefits of being outdoors

Here is my article originally Published in The Outdoor Issue – May/June 2018 on pages 36 & 37.

Escape To The Outdoors

Why your health depends on experiencing nature

 

With each step along the Elk River Trail I felt the cool alpine air on my face and heard birds chirping over the sound of the nearby creek. Its melodic white noise allowed me to breathe slowly, even under the weight of hiking with a heavy pack. One step after another, my pace was steady and focused while my effort increased with the elevation.

As the trail from Landslide Lake climbed higher, the trees began to thin and the forest opened. My eyes turned from watching the path to the jagged peaks of Mount Colonel Foster ahead. The natural beauty and serenity of my surroundings washed away the hard work it had taken to get here. I hiked my way steadily further and higher up the rocky landscape with the forest far behind.

The sweat ran down my face. I didn’t know if it was the sun heating the rock below, my nerves, or me. To my left was a 1,000-foot drop to the approach trail and I still had to pull myself over one last tricky spot to gain the summit.

I reached, I pulled and then I stood – just a few steps and I was on top of the mountain. Those last steps came easily as I stood on the summit of Colonel Foster, Vancouver Island’s most magnetic peak.

A few years back, I left my corporate office job and moved across the country to Vancouver Island where I could reconnect with the outdoors. Each month I spent more and more time outdoors. My gym became the mountain, my treadmill became the forest trail and the trickling creek became my therapist.

Choosing to leave the corporate world and embrace an outdoors lifestyle was important for my mind and my body. Finding a work-life balance seemed as daunting as the mountain I just climbed, but it was worth it. It always is.

We get caught up in our work and our routines so much that we have shifted indoors. Chronic stress and anxiety are lowering productivity, people are becoming more withdrawn, and their ability to engage with others is impacted. In report after report, the connection is shown that less time in nature impairs both your mind and your body.

Psychological and physical wellbeing improve dramatically when you choose to spend more time in activities away from crowds in a natural setting.

The Parks Council of Canada has been working hard to raise awareness and to get more Canadians outdoors. A report they published on Canadians in the outdoors says, “Like animals removed from their natural habitat, Canadians experience adversity when they disconnect from nature because, as a species, humans quite simply cannot thrive in a built environment.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1989 estimated that Americans were spending 90 per cent of their day indoors. University of New York at Buffalo author Shiu-Ming Kuo labelled this trend Nature Deficit Disorder — less time outdoors impairs both mind and body.

Our sedentary lifestyle is contributing to an obesity problem that shows one in four Canadians is considered overweight, according to a 2011 study for the Public Health Agency of Canada. Even moderate activity levels in a natural setting allow physical healing to begin. Your immune system strengthens, your blood pressure comes down and you reduce your risk of heart disease.

Time spent outdoors boosts your mental health. It reduces stress, improves moods and produces higher engagement in social settings. Nature provides a restorative power for our cognitive functions. It improves our attention spans, problem solving becomes easier and positive aspirations increase. An Ipsos Reid poll in 2011 stated that 87 per cent of Canadians feel happier when connected to nature.

Through better mental and physical health we become more productive on the job and achieve better results as athletes while improving our relationships with family and friends.

We all pick our own path. Choosing to spend more time outdoors is a path that will never lead you wrong. What mountain will you climb?

 

Health Benefits of Being Outdoors Mindful Explorer Chris Istace

My friend Tom reflects on Mt Colonel Foster after our successful climb to the summit

 

A special thanks again to Impact Magazine who originally ran my article in their May/June 2018 issue. They also posted it only HERE.

Experience The Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

What are your thoughts on the Health Benefits of Being Outdoors? Remember that it can just begin with a simple walk around the block every morning before work. Maybe a simple break outdoors eating your lunch instead of inside. The important thing is that you are mindful of the positive effects that nature has on our health.

I wrote another simple article on the health benefits of being outdoors in the following link that I think you will like, Three Pillars to Good Health.

Be sure to follow along on my mindful journey discovering the benefits of the outdoors and mindfulness on social media. My Instagram account is @Stasher_BC as well as over on Twitter at @Stasher_BC . Make sure to use the hashtags #MindfulExplorer and #ExploreBeyondTheUsual so I can see how you are improving your own life in the outdoors.

 

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Steveark says:

    Great advice, my wife and I are both over 60 and we just got back last night from a trip hiking the Rockies in Colorado. We hiked aggressively for four days culminating in a 18 mile hike from Bear Lake to Grand Lake that is typically done as a two or three day hike by most people. It went up and down a pretty tall mountain (Flattop Mountain 12,000 plus feet) and the trail was crazy rocky and rarely had a good place to plant your foot. We made it in just under ten hours of hard going and it was wonderfully exhausting. Back in Arkansas we run 18 miles outside every week and play four or five tennis matches a week, also outside, so we share the view that outdoors exercise improves your health and keeps you young. I think it shocked the many millennial hikers we passed on the trail that old timers like us could move so fast!

    • We are only as old as our mindset says we are, keeping our passion and focus on positive high energy outdoor activities will forever have us young at heart. Isn’t it wonderful how happy we get from that feeling of exhaustion. Did you also know that breathing that air and getting dirty in the backcountry actually helps our gut bacteria probiotics. Also the heavy sweating we do will being active in the outdoors is a powerful detoxification for our bodies. The benefits are tremendous and we will be hiking well into our 90s with big smiles. 🙂 Well done on your hike and thanks so much for the great comment

  • Great stuff Chris, well done! The more research that’s done on the outdoors-health connection, the more they find the to are intrinsically linked. Let’s keep getting the message out!

  • Anika says:

    Can’t agree more. I work a Monday-Friday desk job, but make a sincere effort to get out on the weekends. My husband and I just spent two nights near 5040 and the experience of being completely disconnected allowed my mind to fully leave work and appreciate all the natural beauty that the island has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job but finding that balance and clearing the mind is so important. It allows me to come back and feel rejuvenated.

  • That 90% number is one I read years ago and something that has really stuck with me. I try and make sure I am well under that every week 🙂

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