Vitamin N, the lost nutrient…
Each year I spend more and more time in nature. It started with easy camping trips but progressed to overnight back packing as I began to get more confident. I started off doing camping trips with the family growing up in the standard provincial parks, which is great since everything is accessible and you don’t have to worry about much. I’m much more adventurous with my endeavours and have under taken a two and a half week camping/hiking trip across lower BC, these were some of the most beautiful sights that nature can offer. I saw all types of weather from rain, hail, intense wind, and sunny skies (all in about a 30 minute span too).
There’s just something about watching the sunset from a cliff with water to one side and trees off in the other. The city never prepares you for the beauty of waking up in the middle of the night to see the sky sprinkled with stars sparkling, only dreams are made of this.
I work a lot, some days I’ll do 12-14 hours days. Today I was up at 5 am. Finding a work-life balance seems impossible if look at the amount of time left to do anything. If you add in the 8 hours of sleep I try far, I’ve got between 0-6 hours – not much to work with eh.
I set and schedule time to be outside, it’s the only way to do it. If I just do it when I have time, it’ll never be there. It gives me something to work towards and motivates me to keep doing what I love.
Having a work-life balance can be daunting but climbing a mountain is worth it.. always.
1 | You need heart - it decrease blood pressure and risk for heart disease
It’s exercise, it’s a standard benefit from working your body. It gets the blood flowing, the heart pumping, and it’s a way to hide how hard you are working – say good bye to the starring at the wall while on the treadmill!
2 | Take a load off - It decreases stress
Who knew stressing your body with exercise can actually decrease your stress? It decreases cortisol in your body, the stress hormone. It’s not a terrible hormone but it becomes a problem when it’s chronically circulating in the body, we need that balance of turning it on and off.
There are a number of studies that hint that spending time in a green space can help with stress levels. Outdoor enthusiasts tend to agree that there’s a real sense of peace and tranquility you get from being outside and away from everything.
3 | Improve your mental function - Stop overthinking, increase your attention span, problem solving, and positive aspirations
Hiking or walking can give you much needed personal space, a sense of peace, and time to free your mind. When you hike, you’re able to work out problems better because you’re able to escape from the daily irritations and distractions in your life.
Ruminating is simply repetitively going over a thought or a problem without completion – AKA over thinking.
This is a typical similarity in anxiety and depression.
Walking with the views from nature can significantly decrease negative repetitive, obsessive thinking habits
Creative problem solving can be improved by disconnecting from technology and connecting with nature.
A study found that participants who hiked while backpacking in nature for approximately four days without technology had increased performance on problem-solving tasks by 50%
4 | Strengthen your immune system and decrease allergies
Okay, but how? Remember that cortisol hormone? Cortisol suppresses the immune system. It’s more than just that though!
There was a study that found hiking twice a day for three days found an increase in white blood cells by 40%!
They remained 15% higher a month later too.
The results weren’t the same after an urban walking trip, which indicates the changes aren’t from exercise alone
It’s been shown to increase the bodies “ Natural Killer cells” too. NK cells are best known for killing virally infected cells, and detecting and controlling early signs of cancer.
Our favourite reason that it improves the immune system is something called “phytoncide”. It’s a found in wood, plants, and even some fruits/vegetables and the trees emit it to protect themselves from germs and insects. The crisp forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better, inhaling the phytoncide actually improves the immune system function
5 - Boost your mental health - Anxiety and depression
The benefits for this is dose dependent, the people who make long visits to green spaces had lower rates of depression and blood pressure and those who visited more frequently had greater social cohesion.
A study found a dose-response (increasing levels of exposure are associated with increasing level of the benefit)
A few reasons why...
Unless you’re driving through the woods or to the top of the hill by your car, you’re going to be exercising. You’re going to have movement during any activity in nature – hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, or swimming.
Everyone knows the benefit of exercise, why not do move in nature? You don’t have to pick the biggest mountain, the steepest cliff, or longest trail – You just need to start with 30 minutes.
The “ sunshine vitamin “, Vitamin D is naturally produced in the skin when your exposed to sunlight. Not necessarily needing to hike to get sunshine, you can still increase your levels of Vitamin D while hiking.
Now scientists aren’t completely sure on the full benefits of Vitamin D, there are studies that suggest it’s a pretty important thing. It can be beneficial for cancer, depression, osteoporosis, and heart attacks. We do know the role it does play in helping calcium and that it boosts the immune system.
Hiking will naturally increase your Vitamin D levels if you’re in the sun helping you to prevent a range of diseases while you are getting fit!
While some what controversial in modern medicine, i’ve found this extremely beneficial and have recommended it to clients (typically for pain and feet injuries). The basic theory is that since many of us don’t come into contact with the earth very often, a “positive” charge is built up in the body. The direct skin contact with earth acts as a “ground” (like an outlet), reducing the positive charge.
It doesn’t matter if you walk from 30 minutes, 3 hours, or 3 days. Being in the outdoors and hiking has it benefits.
It’s been shown that leisurely forest walks can lead to
- 12.4% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol
- 7% decrease in sympathetic nerve activity (also known as “fight-or-flight” behaviours)
- 1.4% decrease in blood pressure
- 5.8% decrease in heart rate
We absolutely love it, do you hike, camp, trail run, or get outdoors? Let us know in the comment section
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Bratman, Gregory & Daily, Gretchen & Levy, Benjamin & J Gross, James. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning. 138. Pages 41–50. 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005.
Ghaly M, Teplitz D. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. J Altern Complement Med. 2004;10(5):767-776.
Sturm, J. , Plöderl, M. , Fartacek, C. , Kralovec, K. , Neunhäuserer, D. , Niederseer, D. , Hitzl, W. , Niebauer, J. , Schiepek, G. and Fartacek, R. (2012), Physical exercise through mountain hiking in high‐risk suicide patients. A randomized crossover trial. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 126: 467-475. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2012.01860.x
Gregory N. Bratman, J. Paul Hamilton, Kevin S. Hahn, Gretchen C. Daily, James J. Gross Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jul 2015, 112 (28) 8567-8572; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1510459112
Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 291541. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/291541
Park B.J., Tsunetsugu Y., Kasetani T., Hirano H., Kagawa T., Sato M., Miyazaki Y. Physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the atmosphere of the forest)—Using salivary cortisol and cerebral activity as indicators. J. Physiol. Anthropol. 2007;26:123–128. doi: 10.2114/jpa2.26.123.
Lee J., Park B.J., Tsunetsugu Y., Ohira T., Kagawa T., Miyazaki Y. Effect of forest bathing on physiological and psychological responses in young Japanese male subjects. Public Health. 2011;125:93–100. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2010.09.005.