The Surprising Reason Outdoor Spaces May Help You Get Healthier

We love strolling through parks and gardens, but here's another healthy reason to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air.

Photo: Getty Images / Tom Werner

There's been quite a bit of research on the positive effects that nature has on your mood, happiness, and stress levels, but now you can add another healthy boon to the list. According to a new study in Health & Place, being outdoors and among greenery can reduce cravings.

The study was conducted at the University of Plymouth, and it's the first to show that access to greenspace leads to both lower frequencies and strengths of common cravings. These cravings include those for alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco, and processed foods.

Leanne Martin, a lead researcher for the study said, "It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person's well being. But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programs in the future."

The study revealed that exposure to a garden environment helped people have fewer and less frequent cravings, while even not being present within a green space but just having the sights from a window (as long as at least 25 percent of the view showed nature) also was effective.

Dr Sabine Pahl, Associate Professor in Psychology, also said, "Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating. In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity and diabetes."

So, although more research is needed, this study shows promise for a discovery that can help prevent and manage various health conditions.

What This Means

This study shows yet another reason why people should get outdoors as much as possible, for the fresh air, nice views, and activity (think: a stroll in a park or a jog along a lake). Being in green spaces can lead to fewer negative feelings and a peppier mood and may even help you cut back on mindless snacking.

The next time you think about taking your lunch at your desk, get up and head to a nearby park, grassy area or window that shows a view of greenery. Not only will it be a good mental break, but you may find yourself reaching for healthier options. It will also improve your mood so you return to the office feeling more productive and rejuvenated.

You can also try to workout outdoors, especially when it's nice out. Try walking after a meal (this is great for keeping blood sugar stable and preventing diabetes, too), or going for a run or jog after work before it gets dark out. Many cities offer free outdoor boot camp classes or running groups. Try a google search to see if any programs exist where you live.

The study also creates a more dire cause to create more green spaces, parks, and recreational areas for nature in cities across the world. Having access to nature when in a bustling, packed city will help people separate from urban life and have that exposure to nature that you can't always find amidst the cars and large skyscrapers.

Learn more:

When You're Craving a Food, Maybe You Need to Just Eat It

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