I recently came back from a four day long kayaking trip in the Broken Group Islands off the coast of Vancouver Island.  It was amazing. Four days of unplugging from society really did wonders for my overall wellness. For four days I breathed salty ocean air instead of fossil fuel pollution.  I listened to waves breaking over the shore as opposed to honking cars and loud gym music. I traded in smartphone screen time for staring an infinite distance upwards at the stars.  And now that I’m back home I feel substantially healthier.  

There is no perfect way to temporarily escape from the rat race and spend time in nature.  Overnight hikes can be just as awesome as relaxing lake days which can be just as awesome as kayaking trips.  Here’s the point: being outdoors has incredible health benefits, so try to block out a few days every once in a while to unplug and go outside.  And if you’ve never been into the outdoors and need a little extra persuading to periodically leave your phone for the mountains, I’ve got you covered; below are the three main reasons why I feel that fucking off into the wilderness every once in a while is a must for mental and physical health.

 

  • The mental benefits

 

Modern life sets us up to live on autopilot.  Whether that’s eating dinner while watching Netflix, or unconsciously driving the same route to work every morning, it’s easy to see that constant awareness is very difficult to maintain in this day and age.  Leaving emails, deadlines, and social responsibilities behind for a few days in nature is one of the most effective ways to pull yourself out of such a non-present state of living. The prioritization for food, shelter, and water, with the sensory bath of nature noises, sounds, physical sensations (i.e. “forest bathing”) is an incredibly potent combination for transporting you deep into the present moment.  Furthermore, upon returning to regular life, a newfound appreciation for modern conveniences also helps to improve mental wellness. Gratitude for showers, toilets, and running water are just a few examples of how being outside for a weekend can increase your appreciation for the little things in life – conveniences that are all too often taken for granted.

 

 

  • The physical benefits

 

Aerobic fitness is in my opinion, one of the top three, if not the very most important aspect of physical fitness.  Whether your goal is to lose excess body fat, or to strengthen the heart and lungs for overall wellness, imagine the positive physical changes you could make by walking on a treadmill for eight hours a day.  Well that’s exactly the type of physiological stimulus that you might put on your body by being outdoors for days at a time: Wake up, go for a walk and a swim. Lounge around in a hammock for a couple of hours.  Get up sometime around noon to go kayaking for a few hours. Come back to shore and spend another hour on the beach stretching, breathing, and soaking up the sun. Spend the early evening foraging for firewood and then build a campfire.  Go to sleep physically tired but content. If you were to guesstimate the caloric requirements for a day of activity like that, you might be burning over 2000 calories purely through aerobic means. Say hello to fat loss, and heart and lung health!  In addition to constant low-level physical activity, being in nature exposes you to the hormetic stressors of heat and cold, both of which can stimulate the production of anti-aging and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body. Finally, being outside puts your body in tune with several different circadian rhythm adjustors (i.e. “zeitgebers”) such as physical movement, meal times, and most importantly daylight.  According to experts in health and wellness, having a well-adjusted circadian rhythm is imperative for optimal hormonal health.

 

So there you have it!  My hope is that you are now fully sold on the benefits of spending prolonged periods of time outdoors.  You’ll feel better because of it. And as always, if you’d like to know more about, and start taking responsibility for your own health, fitness, and wellness, please reach out to Crux Fitness Richmond for any of your personal training needs.

Patrick Koo – Personal Trainer at Crux Fitness Richmond

 

REFERENCES

Coronado-Montoya, S., Levis, A. W., Kwakkenbos, L., Steele, R. J., Turner, E. H., & Thombs, B. D. (2016). Reporting of positive results in randomized controlled trials of mindfulness-based mental health interventions. PLoS One, 11(4) doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/10.1371/journal.pone.0153220.

Hansen, M. M., Jones, R., & Tocchini, K. (2017). Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and nature therapy: A state-of-the-art review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8), 851. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/10.3390/ijerph14080851

Quante, M., Mariani, S., Weng, J., Marinac, C., Kaplan, E., Rueschman, M., Mitchell, J., James, P., Hipp, J., Cespedes Feliciano, E., Redline, S. (2018). Zeitgebers and their association with rest-activity patterns. Sleep, 41(1), A63

Pruimboom, L., & Muskiet, F.A.J. (2018). Intermittent living; the use of ancient challenges as a vaccine against the deleterious effects of modern life – A hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, 120, 28-42.

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