I’ve always been a fan of the great outdoors; as a child I loved riding my bike all over the small town where I grew up, and later as an adult, I have enjoyed running, going for “walks and talks” with my family and friends, and taking my dog out for his daily exercise.  And while we’ve known for generations that being outdoors, in the presence of nature, has a positive effect on our sense of wellbeing and our overall health, it has not always been clear just how little time it takes to derive those benefits.  Until recently.

Several research studies, reported in the US and in Denmark over the past two years, have identified that taking a Vitamin N (Nature) pill  – for as little as two hours a week – can create significant positive results in our mental, physical and spiritual wellness.   Here are some summary findings that show the health benefits received from specific activities done over varied lengths of time:

  • Ten minutes of gardening, or a weekly visit to a public garden, can alleviate depression.
  • Twenty minutes of hiking among trees, in parks, bird watching, or walking your dog, reduces the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body.
  • Thirty minutes of sitting outside to people watch, or walking around a public park in the city or the suburbs, lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Forty-five minutes or more, spent in outdoors activities results in less bodily fatigue and increased mental alertness than if you spent the same time indoors on a treadmill.
  • Sixty minutes of walking in urban parks, or on suburban streets lined with trees, can boost your memory and your attention span by 20%.

A daily “nature pill” can help us all individually, while also helping our whole country bring about significant benefits to the nation we share, including …

  • Decreasing anxiety and negative thoughts while lowering levels of depression and stress hormones.
  • Improving mental and physical stamina and resilience.
  • Decreasing blood pressure.
  • Helping diabetics gain better blood sugar control.
  • Assisting our schoolchildren in achieving increased cognitive development.
  • Supporting our country in lowering the incidence of cardiovascular disease, mental health illnesses, neurological and digestive diseases, and respiratory conditions.

Now, when I am walking Winky around the local park every afternoon, I feel even better knowing that we are not only having some fun bonding time, but we are also strengthening our overall health and happiness, and contributing to our community’s health.   Feels great!

(Source: Costco magazine, May 2021)