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Health and Fitness

No Adult Left Indoors – Head Outdoors for Health, Happiness and Longevity

As a twist on Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods,” I suggest that it’s just not kids who need to head outdoors. In keeping with an article I read in the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) newsletter, everyone needs to spend more time outside, moving their bodies.
Why? Because contact with the natural world makes us feel good. And feeling good encourages health, happiness and a longer life.
Some researchers worry that not getting out “is killing us.” For example, a recent study in Japan showed that elderly folks who lived near parks/green spaces or spent more time outside lived more than 5 years longer than those who had neither. The researchers concluded that more walkable green spaces in cities would boost the health of senior citizens.
Improved health from contact with nature makes sense. “We’re Cro-Magnons – no different from the guy with a spear chasing a woolly mammoth,” says Andrrew Duxbury, a gerontologist at University of Alabama. “We are designed to be outdoor creatures. We need to be outside, not huddled around the TV set.”
Although hiking, trail running and climbing mountains is surely the fast track to the outdoors, not everyone is so inclined. But even for older individuals the outdoor is easily accessible. It could be as simple as cultivating a little garden, putting up a bird feeder or watching kids play at a local park.
“The older I get, the more this starts to be spiritually connected,” says Chuck Rubey of Orinda, Calif. “You start to see that your life isn’t unlimited anymore, and to be able to see all these magnificent creatures and witness the wonders of wildlife become more important. It brings a feeling of goodness.”
Out at the University of California–Los Angeles, geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Helen Lavretsky makes good use of that feeling in her patients. She finds that walks in the woods or the outdoor yoga classes she leads can be very effective in reducing stress and improving health.
“I haven’t seen a single patient who attributes joy to shoe shopping,” she says. “But just being outside is a major pleasure, and being in nature is a powerful thing. It’s in our roots. It’s essential for our sleep, our mood, our health. It’s the ultimate pleasure of being connected to the Earth.”
What does the outdoors do for you?
 

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