Are you suffering from a weight problem, diabetes, depression, or heart disease? Then a new study has good advice for you: Get out!
Why? Study author Ming Kuo notes that all of these health problems involve an immune system that’s not working right. And her research shows that simply taking a hike, picnicking in the woods, or walking along the beach can help recalibrate your immune system so it works for you—not against you.
Kuo says, “I pulled every bit of the research in this area together that I could find, and was surprised to realize I could trace as many as 21 possible pathways between nature and good health.” She was even more surprised, she says, to find out that all but two of these pathways share a single common denominator: they involve immune function.
This explains, she says, why exposure to nature helps protect against a wide range of health problems, including:
· Mental problems including depression, anxiety, and ADHD
· Musculoskeletal problems
· Urinary tract infections
· Cardiovascular disease
· Obesity and diabetes
· Respiratory problems
“Nature doesn’t just have one or two active ingredients,” she says. “It’s more like a multivitamin that provides us with all sorts of the nutrients we need. That’s how nature can protect us from all these different kinds of diseases—cardiovascular, respiratory, mental health, musculoskeletal, etc. —simultaneously.”
Kuo says her research shows that being out in nature switches the body from fight-or flight mode into rest-and-digest mode. When we’re in fight-or-flight mode, she notes, everything non-essential—including the immune system—shuts down. Conversely, she says, “When we are in nature in that relaxed state, and our body knows that it’s safe, it invests resources toward the immune system.”
As a naturopathic physician, I’m not surprised by Dr. Kuo’s findings. I know that the closer we stick to our natural template, the healthier we are. And that template includes feeling the sun or the rain on our skin, watching the clouds and the stars, getting dirt on our hands, and hearing the songs of birds, the rustling of trees, and the sound of running water.
So take Dr. Kuo’s advice. Turn off the nature shows, which she says are “a little bit like junk food” because they satisfy your cravings for nature without providing you with its benefits. Instead, lace up your hiking boots, put on your swimsuit, or pack a picnic basket, and go get a big dose of Mother Nature. It’ll put a smile on your face… and it’ll make your immune system happy, too!
Read more articles about how to reduce stress and boost immunity.
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