After adapting to urban life, we, as a human species, have strayed further and further away from nature, often to our detriment. We are inherently biophilic, and we have a constant need for a close connection with our environments.
In fact, our species seems to be programmed to seek out forests, meadows, and mountains in any form, even as digital images. Children also prefer to play in parks whenever possible and improvise their playgrounds with all available resources.
My name is Brent Lott, and I’ve been a nature lover my whole life. As a fan of mountain biking and all outdoor sports, I’ve always tried to bring people closer to nature and to point out its many benefits.
We Are Programmed to Appreciate Nature
Our childish desire to explore every blade of grass, find every hidden bug, and carefully examine every rock is more than a passing interest. Strong attachment to nature has a high evolutionary value because people who carefully monitor their natural environments have always had an advantage in hunting and survival. No wonder the sight of flowers, lush landscapes, and hundred-year-old trees still calms our nerves, even today.
Unlike children, who rush off to explore the nearest forest, without any reservations, adults tend to suppress their natural need for the outdoors. Many people spend most of their lives inside, living the consumerist dream and risking their health in the process. We keep ignoring the fact that a lack of sunlight weakens the immune system and further increases the risk of depression and anxiety.
The U.S. researchers have also found that office workers, who are generally prone to depression, have fewer issues if their offices are located in cleaner natural environments. We are still discovering all the advantages that a forest biome offers, and how necessary it is to take a few days away from our concrete jungles.
Trees Are Your Friends
Pine trees, in particular, have a very beneficial effect on our health. They release a large number of phytoncides, which is a substance that’s not only responsible for the usual “smell” of the forest but also has antibiotic properties. There are general indications that forests have a positive impact on our health. A simple 10-minute walk through the woods does more for our bodies than a prolonged indoor training session in a stifling room can ever do.
It improves the oxygenation of the body, regulates the stress hormone cortisol, and stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine. Japanese physicians have concluded through various studies that as little as 15 minutes spent in tree-rich areas can make people happy and content. In Japan, there are special “forest baths,” which have been a part of the national health program since the early 80s.
It’s crucial to recognize how much value there is in spending time in various natural environments and making the most of it. While someone might prefer a stroll through the woods, others like myself might be more comfortable with mountain biking, so pick whatever suits you and head out there!
Take Your Training Outside
Spending time in nature is good, but training in nature is even better. When people mention outdoor training, we usually think of professional runners and cyclists, torturing themselves in harsh conditions to achieve maximum results. However, you don’t need such drastic measures to achieve a positive and healthy outcome.
Walking, the simplest form of movement, can do wonders for your body and health if done in a natural environment. Most hiking trails can be reached from major cities by cars or public transport, so they are always within your reach. You can also use a bicycle and spare the areas around you from exhaust fumes and pollution.
Hiking is another recreational activity that’s suitable for everyone, from children to the elderly, so you can include as many family members as you want. If you find hiking or walking too boring, there are other, more challenging ways to get around in a natural environment. Classic outdoor jogging and sprinting offer much more variety and better air circulation than the gym treadmill does, while being completely free.
More Variety for the Brain
Also, outdoor training has many advantages that an air-conditioned room cannot offer. Things like thermal stimuli and a three-dimensional terrain that involves more muscle groups and more parts of the brain, cannot be simulated indoors. The brain remains more active outside, and physical activities in natural environments are considered less strenuous, as the body is innately more receptive.
This is because there is more to see, hear, and smell outside, and you also have a tangible goal in sight. When you climb to the top of a hill, it feels great because you have made noticeable progress and overcome a physical obstacle. The satisfaction and the results are far greater than reaching an arbitrary number of minutes on a gym treadmill.
In the end, the environment itself remains the greatest benefit of outdoor training. The one thing that’s impossible to replicate in any indoor scenario is the clean, fresh air and all the greenery around you, providing a beautiful backdrop and fuel for your body.