Originally printed in The Lance (2014 04 23)
Growing up in the pre-computer age had its benefits. As kids, my friends and I spent a lot of free time playing outdoors and exploring the natural world. We had no choice. Cries of “Mom, I’m bored” were met with a familiar answer “Go outside and play.” And we did. We rode our bikes to the local slough to catch frogs. We collected tumbleweeds to make forts. We climbed trees, ran, jumped, and played. We lay among the prairie grasses imagining pictures in the clouds. We spent hours searching for the elusive four-leaved clover. We listened to the buzz, hum, twitter, chirp, chatter, rustle, and flow of life around us. And, we reaped nature’s many unseen rewards.
Studies have now shown that exposure to nature benefits the mind, body, and society in many ways (sidebar). A daily dose of nature can be a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to prevent illness, speed recovery, and boost your overall wellness. A single dose can help you become calmer, smarter, happier, and healthier. How much is enough? A mere 2 minutes focusing on nature reduces stress. It lowers muscle tension and blood pressure and increases brain activity. An hour improves memory and attention span by 20%. Prolonged exposure over two or more days can increase the level of cancer-fighting white blood cells by 50% and this effect can last up to 7 days.
These findings draw attention to the need to conserve nature within urban areas where over 80% of Canadians now live and work. I was lucky. I grew up on the outskirts of cities where there was an abundance of nearby nature. Many city-dwellers are not so fortunate. Winnipeg is not a concrete jungle but it needs more natural parks and greenways like the Seine River. Urban planners, decision-makers, and developers must work together with health advocates and environmentalists to ensure that all Winnipeggers can easily get a daily dose of nature.
|Research Shows that Exposure to Nature|
|Vitamin D production||Depression|
|Weight loss||Pulse rate|
|Brain activity||Muscle tension|
|Memory||Symptoms of ADHD|
|Curiosity||Diabetes (50% lower risk)|
|Creativity||Heart attack (50% lower risk)|
|Attention span||Colon cancer (30% lower risk)|
|Job performance||Domestic violence|
|Job satisfaction||Post-surgery recovery time|
|Social ties||Need for pain medication|
|Sense of community||Duration of hospital stays|
|Cancer-fighting cells||Health care costs|
A daily dose of nature, as these winter walkers are getting, can be a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to prevent illness, speed recovery, and boost your overall wellness.