A medicine capable of acting simultaneously on mood, blood pressure, cognitive function, immune system, heart health and sleep quality? It exists, and it is… nature. Indeed, as a recent review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health by a group of scientists from the prestigious Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (Jimenez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2021) shows, a walk in nature has multiple benefits for our health, at all ages! But let's go deeper into this very interesting topic, also because it deals with a remedy that is within everyone's reach, always and at no cost, as it can be a walk in a park or in the woods, if we have it nearby.
Nature against stress, depression and insomnia
A walk in nature or simply sitting in a park and in the middle of a forest help to counteract stress. This is evidenced by several scientific studies that report how, after spending time in a natural environment, cortisol levels, considered one of the most important markers of stress, decreased in the participants. Not only that, being in nature helps to reduce anxiety and depression and also to improve the quality of sleep. Being in nature, surrounded by green trees and bushes, has been observed to help reduce the risk of depression, especially in women under 60. Similarly, those who spend at least 5-6 hours outdoors during the weekend have a reduced probability of suffering from depression compared to those who spend only 30 minutes outdoors. A similar protective effect on mood has also been observed in those who have a garden and spend at least 5 hours a week there.
Nature for heart health
Studies clearly show that exposure to a natural environment helps reduce blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic. The noteworthy fact is that this beneficial effect has also been observed in young hypertensive persons. Not only that, being in nature a lot is also connected to a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes, probably because in this way one is more inclined to practice physical activity.
Therefore, the hypotensive, antidiabetic and relaxing effects make nature a powerful remedy for protecting the health of our cardiovascular system.
Nature and the immune system
A study analyzed blood samples from people who had just finished a holiday in nature. Well, compared to the period before the holiday, the blood samples showed an increase in natural killer cells, our first line of defense against viruses and cancer cells. It is believed that this beneficial action, the effects of which were found even 30 days after the holiday, is due to phytoncides, natural substances emitted by trees to protect themselves from insects and germs and which act on humans by increasing natural defenses.
Nature and cognitive function
A natural environment, more than an urban environment, allows you to enhance cognitive function, improving attention, mental flexibility and reasoning.