If you’re like the typical American, most of your life is spent inside. Whether you’re at home or at work, in the classroom, car or some other enclosed space, the average American spends roughly 93 percent of their time indoors, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency
Maybe it’s time to expand your horizons!
One way to improve mental health and overall wellness is to spend some time outdoors. Taking advantage of the healing properties of nature can be an important component of self-care. I tell my patients that the practice brings significant benefit! Satisfaction with life, efficiency and positivity is increased. Patients feel more energetic, sharp, creative and less depressed and anxious.
Is being outside good for you?
As it turns out, your mother’s decree to “go outside and play,” was actually sound health advice. The health benefits of spending time outdoors include:
- Increased Vitamin D levels—all it takes is 15 minutes a day in the sunshine to make a noticeable difference. Results may include improved liver, kidney and bone health and a boost for your immune system.
- Reduced stress—being outside regularly drops your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lowers your heart rate and elevates your mood, which decreases your body’s response to and level of stress.
- Natural aromatherapy—whether it’s the smell of pine and dirt in the forest or the aroma of salt and sand on a beach, nature provides a natural perfume that produces a calming effect and increases the health benefits of the experience.
- Exercise—it’s easier and more likely that you’ll maintain an active lifestyle if you get off the couch or out of the office regularly.
- Better sleep—going outside often can help reset your circadian rhythms, which set your sleep/wake schedule, and restore a more natural sleep pattern.
- Improved productivity—expect better work or academic performance when you spend more time outside. Creativity, alertness and efficiency can also go up.
Are Cincinnati’s parks the pathway to good health?
Forest bathing—spending time outdoors in a forest or other green space to reap numerous health benefits—is a decades-old Japanese practice used to improve both mental and physical health. Luckily, you don’t have to leave the country to take advantage of Mother Nature’s healthcare plan.
The Cincinnati area’s vibrant park system boasts a wide variety of greenspace, with parks, preserves and trails located throughout the region.
is located just two miles from the heart of downtown Cincinnati. Originally an old stone quarry, Inwood Park features nearly 20 acres that include a picnic area, playground, lake, comfort station and restrooms. Also featured is a granite boulder monument to Fredrich Ludwig Jahn, who is known as the Father of Gymnastics and the Inwood Pavilion, which dates back to 1911 and is one of the earliest buildings in the Cincinnati Parks system.
Mt. Airy Forest
Ohio’s only wheelchair accessible public treehouse is found in Mt. Airy Forest
. The park has almost 1,500 acres of trails for hikers, bike riders and horseback riders to enjoy the benefits of outdoor activity. A disc golf course, picnic tables, charcoal grills and play areas round out this park's many offerings. Doris Day Dog Park, an enclosed play area is right next door as well.
Frederick H. Alms Memorial Park
The 94-acre Frederick H. Alms Memorial Park
overlooks the Ohio River—providing a perfect scenic backdrop for your outdoor activities. Originally a winery before the Civil War, the land and its spectacular view were donated to the city in the early 1900s as a memorial to Frederick H. Alms by his wife.
houses the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Krohn Conservatory and a 172-foot high Water Tower from the 1800s, making it one of the most popular parks in the area. Landmarks include Hinkle Magnolia Garden, Mirror Lake, Twin Lakes and the Bettman Fountain.
You don’t always need vast open spaces to enjoy the health benefits of nature. Hopkins Park
is just under an acre at Auburn and Dorchester Avenues, but it packs a lot into a smaller space. Terraced steps, tables and benches as well as a play area for children and a basketball court provide an outdoor respite for the people who work or live nearby.Helping you live an active, healthy life is the ultimate goal of the physician team at The Christ Hospital Health Network. Schedule an appointment online today to discover how you can improve your overall health and, in turn, your quality of life.
This year, we invite you to be a part of the 180 Project, a community initiative that encourages making daily incremental healthy habit changes to turn your life around. Join these efforts by committing to doing something new that's good for your health, starting for one week, and see where it takes you!