Do You Know there is a Link between Nature and Your Health?

The fug of pressure lay upon me. I had been dodging writing the latest River Valley Newsletter. “Was strong the resistance to writing,” as Yoda the Star Wars Jedi would have said.

And yet what I wanted to write about was something that to me was common sense and I knew to be true.

That is the link between feeling good in oneself, and taking time out in nature. Or as our German guests often say – “Ve come to Neu Zeeland because ve vant to be in za nature”.

Maybe a short walk might help.

What is the Link Between Nature and Health?

Scientists, (and I would think common sense) have long known that there is a link between sunlight, natural settings and human well being, however new research has expanded those findings.

This new research is finding that as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether it be gardening or walking in a park, improves mood, self esteem and motivation. An example of this is a study done by the University of Essex in 2007 that found that a walk in the country reduced depression in 71% of the participants.

These findings, and others have resulted in the coining of a new phrase in medical treatments, namely – Ecotherapy.

Surely a Few Minutes Walking in the park will not be a Cure All?

No, a few minutes wandering amongst the flowers is not going to suddenly be a cure all for all the conditions affecting modern man.

John F. Kennedy University Ecotherapy Professor, Craig Chalquist, PhD, co-author of Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, had this to say about Ecotherapy practices.

“They do not represent a cure for the woes of industrial civilization, nor can they be judged by expectations more appropriate to a body of knowledge and practice examined by many years of research.”

In other words, research thus far has not proven that spending time in nature – while admittedly part of a healthy lifestyle – can prevent, treat, or cure any particular condition.

But it can certainly make you feel better.

What is the Point Then if Ecotherapy cannot Prevent, Treat or Cure any Particular Condition?

In a 2010 Japanese study of “Shinrin-yoku” (defined as “taking in the forest atmosphere, or forest bathing”), for example, researchers found that elements of the environment, such as the smell of the trees and plants, the sound of running stream water, and the scenery of the forest can provide relaxation and reduce stress.

Those taking part in the study experienced lower levels of cortisol, (a steroid hormone released by the body in response to stress), a lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure.

These results would indicate that not only did these participants feel better, but their bodies reacted in a positive way to the natural surroundings.

When Should a Focus on Exercise and Time Spent in Natural Surroundings be Started?

The focus needs to start with children. No surprises there. There is plenty of research that says that children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity (preferably outside) per day. Outdoor time is beneficial for children’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

However what is especially interesting is where the children’s physical activity becomes part of the whole families activity. A walk to the Park as a family group has benefits way beyond simple exercise. There is excitement in doing something together that benefits everyone.

Go Take a Hike When the Spark is Not There

So you see where all this is going don’t you?

Therapist, Eric Marlowe Garrison, MAEd, MSc, says this, “I can’t deny what I’m seeing with my clients,” he says. “There’s a world of benefit to being out in nature.”

When you feel the lack of a creative spark, when the glare of fluorescent lighting gets just too much, Go take a Hike, or if a five minute walk in the park won’t quite do it, then dare I say it, a River Trip, or a Horse Riding Holiday may be what you are looking for.

River Valley can help you out with the river and riding therapy. Our range of half day to multi day rafting trips, and two hour horse treks to multi day horse riding holidays can provide a natural outdoor experience that may be just what your mind and body needs.

Either browse this website to find a natural outdoor experience for you or your family, or contact us by email or phone.

Horse handling with a young foal

Sunset over the Northern Rangitikei

New Zealand Wilderness – the view from Mt. Aorangi

A multi day family rafting trip on the Ngaruroro River

Time out to take in the view on a ride with River Valley Stables

White water rafting fun with River Valley

Inflatable kayaking crew about to have fun on the river