The Amazing Benefits of Being in Nature

Better health. Lower stress. Enhanced creativity. Sheer joy. It’s all out there, and it doesn’t take long.

When my son recently announced he wanted to try fishing, I jumped all over it, dug out my old fly rod, and we headed out beyond the city and suburbs to a stretch of river reputed to have some nice trout. We didn’t catch a thing, and we’ve had little luck on multiple, marvelous return trips.

The Lower Salt River near Phoenix near sunset. Photo by Robert Roy Britt

The Good of Green

In 2012, a group of backpackers set out on a multi-day excursion into the wild, with no phones or other electronics. Before departing, they took a test measuring creativity and problem-solving ability. After four days in the wild, the test was given again. Scores were up by 50 percent, from an average of 4.14 correct answers out of 10 before the hike to 6.08.

Nature or Nurture?

There’s an important caveat to many of these studies: Being outdoors often means being active.

Photo: Soroush Karimi/Unsplash

All in Your Head

In 2015, researchers at Stanford University added to evidence there are distinct benefits to nature itself, not just the walking that might get you there and back. They looked at the effects of hiking in a natural area (oak trees and shrubs) versus hiking in an urban setting (along a four-lane road). Before and after the hikes, they asked the participants a bunch of questions, and, importantly, they measured participants’ heart rates and respiration and did brain scans.

Nature Pill?

How much time do you need to spend in nature to see benefits? While few would argue that more isn’t better, it doesn’t take much, a new study finds.

Photo by Robert Roy Britt

Independent health and science journalist, former editor-in-chief of LiveScience, writing about how we age and how to optimize your mind and body through time.

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