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HEALTH Matters® Blog

My Doctor Told Me to Get Outside!

POSTED BY White Plains Hospital
September 08, 2020  
Spending time outside is one of the easiest ways to improve your mental health and well-being.

After months of social distancing and sheltering-in-place during the coronavirus pandemic, there's never been a better time, and bigger need, for the benefits of nature.

"Getting a mental break from work or a stressful situation and going outside is important. It allows you to take a breath, relax, and reset with a better frame of mind,” says Dr. Christine Ashour, Family Medicine and Primary Care, White Plains Hospital Physician Associates, “It doesn’t matter if you’re at a park, in the woods, or in your backyard, being in nature can have a calming effect and improve your mental and physical health, especially when it's combined with exercise."

Some of the benefits of being outdoors include:

Chasing away the blues. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can be eased by spending time outside. Studies have shown being outdoors lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s a marker for stress.

Getting a boost of vitamin D. You can improve your health just by soaking up the sun. Vitamin D is essential for bone growth, regulates your immune system and can help battle depression. An estimated 40% of U.S. men and women are vitamin D deficient, which can lead to osteoporosis, cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Improving your vision. Going outside can do so much good for the health of your eyes. People who suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), a problem caused by staring at computers, tablets and smartphones for long periods of time, may find that spending time outdoors can alleviate blurred and double vision, red eyes, and headaches.

Better brain function. Spending more time outdoors is also linked to higher levels of concentration, creativity, and improved mental clarity. The attention-improving effect of nature is so strong it has been studied as a method of treating kids with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and asthma.

A breath of fresh air. Finally, you really should stop and smell the flowers. Research shows that natural scents like roses, freshly cut grass, and pine make you feel calmer and more relaxed. And a deep breath of fresh air can clear your lungs, give your more energy, and lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

“There are many outdoor activities families can enjoy together to stay active, such as gardening,” says Dr. Ashour. “An hour of gardening can actually burn up to 330 calories. Caring for the flowers or vegetables you’ve grown also releases endorphins, the hormone that makes people feel satisfied and relaxed. Whatever you choose to do, going outdoors can have a positive effect on your outlook and overall health. ”
Dr. Christine AshourDr. Christine Ashour is a Family Medicine Physician. To make an appointment with Dr. Ashour at White Plains Hospital Medical & Wellness in Armonk, call 914-849-7900, or in Yorktown Heights at 914-849-7060.

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