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Fresh-Air Life: The Benefits of Outdoor Physical Activity

‘Friluftsliv’ is a word used by Swedes, Danes and Norwegians. It translates literally as ‘fresh-air life’ and is all about embracing the great outdoors whatever the weather, being active, and immersing yourself in nature. Active outdoor time doesn’t cost a thing and is associated with a number of physical and psychological health benefits (prevents or delays Type 2 diabetes, decreases blood pressure, decreases body fat, reduces symptoms of depression).

Recent studies have shown that being active in nature can have positive effects on stress-related brain regions, reduce mental strain, and lower the use of certain prescription medications. For example, going for a light 5-to-6-minute walk in nature can produce psychological benefits and measurable changes in brain activity that will leave you feeling more relaxed and aware of your emotional states. Unlike structured workouts in the gym, which can sometimes feel like a chore, outdoor physical activity offers a sense of freedom and spontaneity that can uplift your mood and reduce stress. Further, engaging in movement outside in green spaces stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. These neurotransmitters are released during physical activity, leading to a sense of euphoria and happiness. Additionally, outdoor activity encourages mindfulness and presence in the moment which can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and promote a sense of calm and inner peace.

Social interaction is another crucial aspect of mental well-being, and outdoor activity provides ample opportunities for connection with others. Whether you’re playing a game of soccer with friends or chatting on a leisurely hike, socializing outdoors can boost feelings of belonging and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Moreover, research suggests that exposure to natural sunlight during outdoor activity can regulate your body’s internal clock and improve sleep quality. Adequate sleep is essential for mental health, as it allows your brain to recharge and process emotions effectively.

In conclusion, the benefits of outdoor physical activity extend far beyond physical health. By embracing activities that bring joy and spontaneity into your life, you’re not only nourishing your body but also nurturing your mind and soul. So, we encourage you to regularly embrace the outdoors for learning, socialization and physical activity opportunities, in various weather conditions—including rain and snow. Outdoor active play was an important part of your childhood and it should not be eliminated from your adult life. So, the next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, step outside and breathe in the fresh air!

By: Scott Rollo, PSP Borden Health Promotion Specialist