Nutrition Matters – April 2021

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Spring Is the Perfect Time to Take Your Workout Outdoors:  When the weather thaws, the plants bloom and the days get longer, it is spring. Which is the best time of the year to take your fitness regimen outside.

You work harder:  When people exercise outside, they tend to spend more time doing it. One study found that older people who were active outdoors did at least 30 minutes more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week than those who only did it inside. It also made them feel healthier. You are modulating stress hormones, increasing endorphins, and increasing the secretion of serotonin, so your mood brightens.

Being in Nature Lowers Blood Pressure:  Spending time outside is also good for the heart. A recent study estimated that nearly 10% of people with high blood pressure could get their levels under control if they spent at least 30 minutes in a park each week, partly because of the heart-related benefits of getting fresh air and lowering stress.

It Spurs Cancer-Fighting Cells:  Some research suggests that when people are in nature, they inhale aromatic compounds from plants call phytoncides. These can increase their number of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system and is linked with a lower risk of cancer. These cells are also believed to be important in fighting infections and inflammation, a common marker of disease. In one study, researchers found that people who took a long walk through a forest for two days in a row increased their natural killer cells by 50% and the activity of these cells by 56%. Those activity levels also remained 23% higher than usual for the month following those walks.

It Can Feel More Fun:  When people exercise outside, they feel better and enjoy the exercise more, studies suggest. Enjoyment is an important pathway to the mental health impacts of physical activity. Exercising outside is also a great alternative for those who do not want to go to the gym. A review of research found that people who exercised outside reported feeling more revitalized, engaged, and energized than those who did it indoors. The researchers also found that people who exercised outside felt less tension, anger, and depression.

Your Mental Health May Improve:  Nature has a way of making people feel calm, and exercising outside can strengthen that effect. A study found that people who walked for 90 minutes outside were less likely to ruminate on their problems and had less activity in the brain area linked to depression, compared to people who took similar walks but in urban areas.

For additional foods, health, and nutrition information contact Shelina Bonner, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Greene County Center at (252) 747-5831.

Source: Spring Exercise Workout Outside