June 30, 2017

4 health reasons to head outdoors

Temperatures are heating up and the sun is out — and you should be, too.

Jay Lee, MD, an internal medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente in Denver, and someone who works out every day, encourages patients to exercise regularly.

He believes there’s no better place to work up a sweat than among the trees, mountains and lakes. Research suggests that he’s right. Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature has mental and physical health benefits, such as improving mood and mental capabilities, and reducing stress.

And here are 4 reasons why you should find open space, a park or trail this summer and year-round:

  1. You’re moving. Being outside usually means you’re active, whether it’s hiking, biking, gardening, or swimming. Getting your heart rate up is key to good health. It helps your sleep, keeps your waistline trim, and reduces your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, among other health benefits.
  2. Sunshine. Going outside usually exposes you to the sun — and its benefits. Sunlight improves moods, and doles out a much-needed dose of vitamin D, which strengthens bones because it helps our bodies absorb calcium more effectively. The caveat, though, is that prolonged exposure can be damaging to your skin, so cover up and use a sunscreen that will protect you from harmful ultraviolet rays.
  3. Breathe easily. Fresh air is much better for us than the circulated indoor air. When people go outdoors, their exposure to colds and viruses is much lower.
  4. The “ah” moment. Being outdoors, surrounded by gurgling creeks, chirping birds, and aromatic flora is just plain relaxing. With no honking horns, beckoning chores, or buzzing electronics, you can unwind more easily.

Before heading out, says Dr. Lee, prepare with not only sunscreen, but also plenty of water and appropriate attire, especially footwear.