Health Notes

Improve Your Health in the Great Outdoors

by Brenda L Herrod, MSN, APRN-BC on June 14, 2017

When it comes to feeding our good health, nothing is more powerful than exploring the great outdoors. Our bodies are designed for nature, not to be stuck inside all day with our modern technology.

Spring and early summer is a wonderful time to take full advantage of the longer periods of daylight, warmer temperatures and radiant sunshine. Any time of the year is good to be outside, as long as you wear the appropriate clothing!

There are many benefits of enjoying nature:

Decreasing stress

Spending time outdoors makes us happier, healthier and more at peace. Unplug your iPhone, step away from the computer and enjoy the fresh air, the birds chirping and the aroma of flowers and trees in the natural world outside. It reconnects us to nature’s beauty, helping us to reduce stress, decrease our heart rate and blood pressure, and refresh our minds. Besides trees making us oxygen, there are many valuable exchanges going on between humans with trees or plants.

Healthier weight

Research has shown that children and adults exposed to nature have a lower rate of obesity. Being outside allows for more activity and movement in our day. Being out in nature lowers cortisol and blood sugar levels, factors that can lead to obesity. Many believe 20 minutes of fresh air gives you just as much energy as a cup of coffee.

Happiness and less risk of depression

An activity like hiking through a forest or walking on a sandy beach elevates your mood. It creates awareness in your eyes, ears and all of your senses. This exercises your body, your mind and feeds your imagination. Many times people can walk farther distances and at a faster pace than they normally do on treadmills. You can enjoy the view and let it motivate you!

Sunshine and vitamin D

One of the biggest preventative health care issues is making sure you get enough vitamin D. It has been estimated that 90 percent of adults are vitamin D deficient, especially in the Northern latitudes and areas where there is not a lot of sunlight. This is believed to be associated with increased rates of cancer, heart disease, depression, osteoporosis and many other diseases. Sunlight is the best and only natural source of vitamin D. Ten to 15 minutes average of sensible sun exposure – about half the time it would take you to burn – is enough. Anything beyond that and you should apply your sunscreen.

It can be a walk through the park, gardening or planting flowers, eating lunch outside, or a hike on the weekend. You may enjoy viewing the night time stars with crickets chirping, a swim in the lake, admiring the beautiful sunset, or just sitting in the backyard under a tree. Whatever you do, just get outside. Your mood will improve and you will be calmer and healthier. Time in the great outdoors is not really optional; your natural body depends on it.

Brenda Herrod is a board certified women’s health nurse practitioner,
AFAA Certified Personal Trainer, C.O.P.E. Certified Health Coach, and Precision Nutrition Health Coach working with employees at Methodist Health System.
Contact Brenda at
Brenda L. Herrod, MSN, APRN-BC, Methodist Health System


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