Spring into action and go outdoors

January is gone and February is well underway. Before we know it, we will have left the winter behind and spring will be upon us.

Spring is the season for renewal, flowering bulbs and the re-emergence of green. As the days grow longer and the temperature begins to rise, it is a great time of year to think about getting outsidemore.

We all know that being outdoors can generally make us feel better and there are a wealth of benefits to be gained from just taking a short walk. Below are seven reasons why getting outside isgreat for your mental wellbeing.

1 – Reduce Your Stress Levels

Going for a walk is one of the best ways of reducing stress levels. Rhythmic exercise has a calming effect and physiologically walking reduces blood pressure and increases heart rate as well as lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Walking is always beneficial, but being by water has been shown to be especiallysoothing, so try a walk near the canal, river or a lake.

Why is reducing stress so important? Apart from the beneficial effect on feelings of well-being, stress has been shown to increase blood sugar and to increase the risk of heart disease. Being stressed also increases the risk of obesity, with all its associated problems.

For many of us, stress is unavoidable, so it is important to have some downtime to re-balance life and build time for a quiet reflective walk into our routines.

2 – Feel Better About Yourself

Getting outdoors and exercising improves self-esteem and body image. One study asked people to exercise whilst looking at different environments and found that pleasant nature scenes improved self-esteem more than looking at urban settings.

At all ages, people who adventure outside have been found to have higher levels of self-esteem and feel that they can cope better with the stresses of modern life.

3 – Improve Your Concentration and Focus

In our busy lives, being bombarded by information and distracting demands for our attention means that we are finding it more difficult to focus for a long time and we become fatigued with prolonged concentration.

Research has shown that looking at nature improves our ability to restore concentration so that we can focus better.

Family time spent outdoors might help children do better at school!

4 – Improve Mood

Did you know that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in improving the symptoms of mild depression?

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends that people with mild to moderate depression should exercise for 45-60 minutes at least three times a week.

For people with more severe depression, exercising as well as taking medication and having psychological therapy can improve symptoms and general wellbeing.

5 – Sleep Better

Are you having difficulty sleeping? One thing that has been shown to help is regular physical exercise. Going for a walk, especially during the afternoon or early evening, can help you relax and improve the quality of your sleep, particularly the most refreshing REM sleep.

Walking helps sleep quality by improving mood and wellbeing but also by boosting immune and hormonal systems. Getting enough sleep also improves your brain function – another reason to don those walking shoes and get outdoors.

Other factors to think about include having regular sleep and waking times, avoiding a big meal, smoking or alcohol before sleep, making sure that the environment is comfortable, not too cold or too warm, and without added stimulation such as TV or computer screens.

6 – Worry Less

Worried about something? Go for a walk, run or bike ride!

The effect of exercise on worry and feeling anxious is rapid and effective. Most of us will feel a reduction in worry within 5-15 minutes of starting to exercise and this is sustained for 2-4 hours after finishing the exercise. T

People who have more severe anxiety disorders also benefit greatly from exercise in the short and long term and for many people being outside is far morebeneficial than going to a gym.

7 – The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and a strong immune system with low levels of Vitamin D associated with low mood and worry.

Most people can make enough Vitamin D in the UK between March and September, by getting outside and exposing arms, legs or face to sunlight for short periods.The length of time you need to feel the warmth of the sun depends on your skin type