Research, facts, statistics about the impact of nature and the outdoors on young people.

Natural Facts: Outdoor Health Impact

A connection with the outdoors is vitally important to your mental and physical health.  Science is proving that time spent outdoors can have a calming, rejuvenating effect on your mental and physical health.

Being in Nature Boosts Energy: Research in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that being surrounded by nature increases physical and mental energy. U.S. and Canadian psychologists conducted a series of studies asking participants to visualize certain images (including ones of nature), walk in outdoor and indoor environments, and look at various photos (including ones of natural elements)—and report how they were feeling in all situations. In each situation, men and women reported an increase in vitality when around natural elements (both visually and when physically surrounded by nature). This may be why, say the researchers, people are intrinsically drawn to natural settings.

Spending Time Outdoors Helps Us Age Gracefully: People age 70 or older who spend time outdoors every day report fewer sleep problems and aches and pains than those who stay indoors, according to a study published in the Journal of Aging Health.

Walking Outside Increases Creativity: Many people notice improved creativity after being active outdoors. And that feeling is backed by science: In one study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that walking out of doors helps boost inspiration and inventiveness.

Natural Surroundings Improve Concentration: Australian researchers found that taking 40-second “micro breaks” during the day to look at a green, natural environment can improve concentration—and performance—while working. The research, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, emphasizes the importance of taking nature breaks (going for a walk or even looking at a photo of a natural scene), particularly when stressed or mentally fatigued.

Nature Hikes Reduce Anxiety and Depression: A Stanford University study found that walking for 90 minutes in nature showed—through brain scans that track blood flow through the brain—decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with anxiety and depression. This study, the researchers say, shows that nature actually has the power to change the brain.

Nature Helps Recovery and Reduces Pain: Researcher Roger S. Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, conducted a study on patients who underwent surgery. He found that patients who had a view of trees healed faster, had less pain and had shorter hospital stays than those who had a view of a wall.

Seeing Nature Leads to Greater Work Satisfaction: Office workers with a view of nature outside their windows liked their jobs more, had less stress and greater work satisfaction and were healthier, according to research published in the journal Public Health Reports.

Contact with Nature Leads to Less Crime: A study published in the journal BioScience found that the greater the amount of greenspace in a community, the less crime that area had—even in areas with lower levels of education, income and other socioeconomic factors.

Walking in Forests Boosts Immunity: Japanese researchers wanted to explore the potential immune benefits of shinrin-yoku—so they studied the activity of people’s natural killer (NK) cells, a component of the immune system that fights cancer. They measured the cells before and after forest bathing. These natural killer cells were significantly increased after spending just a day out in nature. And the boost in immune cells remained for seven days after the trip ended.

Living Near Trees Makes Us Healthier: Researchers at the University of Chicago found that, controlled for socioeconomic factors, just living in areas with lots of trees can make a person healthier, both psychologically and physically. Lead researcher, Marc G. Berman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, believes these health benefits could be the result of better air quality (trees help filter out pollution) and the fact that having trees nearby may encourage people to spend time outdoors.

Even the Color Green Has An Impact: Another study from the University of Essex found that viewing the color green—found abundantly in nature—results in fewer mood disturbances and less exertion when exercising (e.g. it makes exercise seem easier).

Read the full article from Mother Earth Living

2017-01-13T02:59:04+00:00 Categories: Director's Blog, Natural Facts, OAC News, Uncategorized|

Natural Facts: Many Benefits of Hiking

It doesn’t matter whether you take a walk in the park or lace up your hiking boots for a backpacking expedition up a mountain. Hiking on the trail – immersed in nature – offers understated health benefits for adults and children alike. Health benefits of hiking include improving your physical, mental, and for some – even spiritual – wellbeing.

No room in your schedule? Even if you can’t hit the trail as often as you’d like, make it a point tospend just 10-15 minutes a day outdoors. Most people start to notice a positive shift in their life after committing to some outside time every day.

Scientists are not completely sure of the range of positive effects vitamin D has on the body, but studies suggest the vitamin wards against conditions like osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and heart attacks. What we do know for sure is that vitamin D aids the body’s absorption of calcium and boosts the immune system.

Exposing yourself to sunlight early in the morning tells your body when to start producing melatonin. That way, when nighttime rolls around, your body will know when it’s time to hit the hay. Even if you work in a windowless environment for 8 hours a day, getting outside into the daylight for just 10-15 minutes could help you fall asleep easier at night.

When children spend time in nature with family and/or friends instead of sitting idly in front of a screen, the way they interact with people changes for the best. Outdoor activities are thought to make children (and adults) act nicer and even create more meaningful social interactions.

Not only do children connect with the environment, they better connect with one another when they are distraction-free. Sometimes it’s best to unplug, leave the smartphones and gadgets at home, and truly experience what lies beyond your front door.

Most people exercise indoors because it’s much easier to maintain a routine in a controlled environment. Torrential downpour, blistering heat, and frostbitten winds are never an issue when hitting the gym. Also, indoor fitness facilities have weights and loads of equipment for getting in shape.

A 2008 study by the Scottish Health Study concluded that outdoor physical activity has a significantly greater positive effect on mental health than exercising in a gym. In addition, running outdoors reportedly has a better effect on the body than running on a treadmill or stationary bicycle.

Read More

2017-01-13T02:59:04+00:00 Categories: Director's Blog, Natural Facts|

Natural Facts: Beating Winter Blues

It’s thought the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects around 10 million people in the US and more than 12 million people across northern Europe. It can affect people of any age, including children.

Here are some tips from the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA):

1. Keep active
Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.

2. Get outside
Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.

3. Keep warm
Being cold makes you more depressed. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes, and aim to keep your home between 64F and 70F.

4. Eat healthy
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

5. See the light
Some people find light therapy effective for seasonal depression. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box for up to two hours a day. Light boxes give out very bright light at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting.

6. Take up a new hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD. It could be anything from writing to playing basketball. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to.

7. See your friends and family
It’s been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while.

8. Talk it through
Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms.

9. Join a support group
Think about joining a support group. Sharing your experience with others who know what it’s like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable.

10. Seek help
If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, see your doctor for medical help.

2017-01-13T02:59:04+00:00 Categories: Director's Blog, Natural Facts|

Natural Facts: Benefits of Ecotherapy

Many health care researchers and practitioners say that ecotherapy (also known as green therapy, nature therapy, and earth-centered therapy) — a term coined by pastoral counselor Howard Clinebell in his 1996 book of the same name — can have regenerative powers, improving mood and easing anxiety, stress, and depression.

But that’s not all. Health care providers are also giving their patients “nature prescriptions” to help treat a variety of medical conditions, from post-cancer fatigue to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression, especially seasonal affective disorder (SAD). New research is expanding those findings. A 2007 study from the University of Essex in the U.K., for example, found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. The researchers found that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, improves mood, self-esteem, and motivation.

The growing interest in ecotherapy has even given rise to academic programs, such as one begun at John F. Kennedy University, which offers a graduate-level certificate in ecotherapy, an umbrella term that includes horticultural therapy, animal-assisted therapy, time stress management, and managing “eco-anxiety.”

John F. Kennedy University ecotherapy professor Craig Chalquist, PhD, co-author of Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, has acknowledged that research has not proven that spending time in nature can prevent, treat, or cure any particular condition.

But a growing body of research offers a “hopeful picture” of the effectiveness of ecotherapy, Chalquist says.

Read the full article on WebMB here.

2017-01-13T02:59:05+00:00 Categories: Director's Blog, Natural Facts, OAC News|

Natural Facts: Technology and Parenting

How does technology affect parenting?

Parents are just as likely as children to spend too much time in front of screens.  Parents need to evaluate how technology affects their abilities to parent.

Clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair details the risks to children from infancy to young adulthood from the adverse effects of technology in her book, “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.” According to Steiner-Adair, children from 8 to 18 spend more than seven hours daily using electronic devices. She argues digital devices are changing how children think and how parents parent. The job of parents is to keep their children grounded in reality and prepare them for independence and autonomy.

Steiner-Adair summarizes her advice to parents — that good parenting starts without technology. Parents should start with listening, setting limits and modeling communication face-to-face. She strongly recommends the house rules include the requirement to know the children’s phone passwords and for them to check digital gadgets as needed. Steiner-Adair’s final words to parents and children are to slow down.

2017-01-13T02:59:05+00:00 Categories: Director's Blog, Natural Facts, OAC News|

Natural Facts: Studies Show Outdoors Cures What Ails Ya’

What sounds more appealing: Taking a walk outdoors or strolling through the office? For most people, the outdoor sounds way better.

Studies also show that it doesn’t just feel good to go outside, there are actually tons of health benefits to spending just 20 minutes outside every day.

According to a study from the University of Michigan, group nature walks are linked to enhanced mental health and positivity, as well as significantly lower levels of depression and feelings of stress.

A study from Glasgow University showed that people who walked, biked, or ran in nature had a lower risk of poor mental health than people who worked out indoors.

According to a study published in Psychological Science, interacting with nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation, which can have a restorative effect on your attention levels.

Researchers at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School found that women who spent six hours in the woods over the course of two days had an increase in virus- and tumor-fighting white blood cells, and the boost lasted at least seven days afterwards.

2017-01-13T02:59:06+00:00 Categories: Director's Blog, Natural Facts, OAC News|