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6 Health Benefits of the Great Outdoors

January 17, 2024

There’s a reason why “a breath of fresh air” is the go-to phrase for refreshment and health. The great outdoors, and all its inherent fresh air, is where people can go to feel rejuvenated, re-centered, and thoroughly re-set. More than mere fun, nature is healing. A proven balm for everything from stress to social anxiety, here are six health benefits of the great outdoors.

Here’s Why the Outdoors Are Good For Your Health

1. Nature Supports Your Physical Health

The most obvious asset of spending time outdoors is physical health and exercise. The mere nature of being in nature, after all, entails considerable physical efforts, even if it’s just a leisurely hike or a horseback ride. No matter your activity of choice, from mountains to lakes, and every desert or oceanside in between, the physical benefits of spending time outside are myriad. It helps that said activities also happen to be fun, so you hardly even notice that you’re exercising.

Portrait of young smiling woman face partially covered with flying hair standing at mountain.

2. The Great Outdoors Relieves Stress

Especially for city-dwellers, it can be all too easy to succumb to the daily doldrums of routine. We are so desensitized to the hustle and bustle that we hardly realize how normal stress has become. But breaking away from the grind, even if just for an afternoon outside, can do a world of good. There’s something inherently calming and relieving about fresh air in a quiet setting in nature. Be it a ridge-line trail, a still lake, or a sandy dune, nature’s stress-melting benefits are all around.

A young boy is asleep in a sleeping bag in a tent.

3. Better Sleep in the Great Outdoors

You might assume that sleeping in a fluffy hotel bed may be the pinnacle of relaxation, but after one night under the stars, you’ll be singing a different tune. No amount of fine linens or thread count can hold a candle to the soothing sounds of nature, and the all-consuming comforts of a good night’s rest. Removed from the noise of city life, and the din of most urban dwellings, there’s nothing like sleeping amidst the great outdoors. Be it a tent, an RV, or a cabin, the all-natural environs lend themselves to sleep at its most restful.

Playing guitar and singing around the bonfire at night.

4. Aleviate Social Anxiety in Nature

In a world overloaded with technology and social media, where everything is at our fingertips at any given moment, it can be difficult to foster healthy social relationships in real life. Outdoors, though, removed from distractions (and WiFi), it’s much easier to foster connections that are more natural and less intimidating. Simply going on a hike in the woods with a friend or loved one is sure to break down perceived barriers and put minds at ease, while campground campfires are social settings in their own right. By removing these walls, many of which are constructed via technology and routine, nature makes it easier to create or build natural relationships.

Young son looks on as father cooks scrambled eggs on a camping stove.

5. Support a Balanced Diet

Without infinite options at all times, the innate minimalism of being in nature engenders itself to a healthy diet. At home, we might be tempted by fast-food or delivery, but in the great outdoors, travelers are required to be more deliberate and aware of their choices. This entails more planning, and more awareness of purchases. This means more mindful spending and more mindful dining (and snacking). Sure, there’s always room for comforts and s’mores, but recreating outdoors naturally lends itself to healthier snacking habits and cleaner foods. After all, when you’re lacking in kitchen space and storage, you really don’t have much choice other than restricting yourself to fresh ingredients and simple recipes.

Senior couple taking a hiking and smiling.

6. Nature Can Help You Concentration

A through line here is the distractions of our day-to-day routines, even when we don’t realize it. The din of the norm numbs our senses to what balance looks like, and the health benefits of the alternative. In addition to improved sleep, eating, and socialization, time spent outdoors can do a world of good with general focus and concentration. Removed from the litany of tech-driven distractions and work obligations, this is a space where — whether you realize it or not — you are wholly present in your surroundings. Your time spent outdoors will soothe and inspire, sure, but you’ll walk away with a rejuvenated appreciation for the experience, and a renewed ability to concentrate on what matters around you.


Born and raised in New Hampshire, Matt Kirouac grew up with a love for camping and the outdoors. Though he’s lived in Chicago since 2006, he’s always on the lookout for new adventures. He writes about travel and food for outlets like TripExpert, Money Inc, Upventur, DiningOut, Food Fanatics magazine, Plate Magazine and Zagat, and he currently serves as Chicago editor for What Should We Do?! He’s the author of The Hunt Guides: Chicago (2016) and Unique Eats & Eateries of Chicago (2017).

 

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