Every Saturday Jackie and I take at least a couple hours to walk in one of the parks in our area or we might be further afield at some state or national park. Within a few minutes of beginning our walk I can feel myself relaxing. I periodically go on solo backpacking trips, my version of a personal retreat. Not only do I come home refreshed, but often I will have insight into how to resolve what had been an intractable problem.
One of the best things you can do for your health and wellness is spend some time outdoors among trees and other sources of natural beauty. USDA&USFS jointly published Health and Wellness Benefits of Spending Time in Nature cites a number of studies which have shown time spent in nature, especially when combined with walking has a significant, positive impact to people’s physical and mental health. The APA published a list of research papers about how nature contributed to our mental health. The podcast Hidden Brain episode Our Better Nature: How The Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life covers similar material in greater depth. They found that a three day retreat in a forest made significant improves in a number of bio-markers, and that these improves persistent for several weeks. People who got a three day vacation in a city saw no improvements in their bio-markers. The WSJ journal had an article about the benefits of spending time outdoors. A study in Scientific Reports found the minimum effective dose of nature was around 120-190 minutes in a week, with not additional benefit over 300 minutes. Other studies found the practice of forest bathing helped general health and lowered hypertension; time in forests saw increases in anti-cancer proteins, lowered parents stress, and increase resilience in children.
My first choice for a vacation is to spend time in the outdoors which has included around 90% of US national parks. My outdoor activities are primarily:
- running: 9-45 miles/week depending on season and training program
- walking, hiking, backpacking: 12-17k steps daily walking, at least 7 miles Saturday, large range on special activities
- bicycling: 45-150 miles/week depending on how much running and hiking I am doing
I engage in these activities in the greater San Francisco Bay area, and when I am traveling. I keep a list of past and future hiking and backpacking destinations. I also keep a list of recommended outdoor gear.
When I was younger, I spent quite a bit of time canoeing, climbing, fly fishing, kayaking, sailing, and a variety of winter activities such as skiing. I have dabbled with geocaching. I am no longer regularly engaging in these activities.
I am so grateful to my dad, and the boy scouts who introduced me to many of these activities. There are several organizations in my area that help people discover the outdoors such as Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) and the Loma Prieta Chapter, Sierra Club.
Keep close to Nature’s heart, yourself; and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean from the earth-stains of this sordid, gold-seeking crowd in God’s pure air. It will help you in your efforts to bring to these people something better than gold.Alaska Days With John Muir, Gibbs Smith Publisher