The Outdoors and Impact on Health

This year I spent a beautiful birthday weekend at the beach with my family, feeling the most blessed and grateful. After completing chemotherapy and two years of immunotherapy, my follicular lymphoma is in remission. In my relaxed thoughts, I remembered the six months of incapacitating fatigue and the necessity of taking a leave of absence from work. Today, I am enjoying the fresh air, sound of the birds, and peaceful calm of the outdoors. To be quite honest, I am not an exercise fanatic, although I know exercise is healthy. Being outdoors and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air is my preferred method of relaxation.

Spending time outside and enjoying nature

It was exciting to read a study from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey.1 An analysis of the 19,806 participants reported that people who spent over 120 minutes during the week outdoors reported good health or better well-being. The evidence supports walking or even sitting outdoors promotes positive emotions and helps to restore mental health. Participants included both men and women, both older and younger, and with and without a disability.

Compared to no contact with nature, the likelihood of reporting good health became significantly greater when the individual was exposed to 120 minutes of outdoors and nature weekly. It was found that whether done as one episode or several times, the accumulation of 120 minutes of outdoor exposure per week resulted in improved well-being.

This has a great implication for cancer survivors. We can benefit from spending time outdoors and enjoying nature. If you are not feeling very strong, you can ask a friend or caregiver to accompany you to sit outside in the fresh air. When my husband was recuperating from a critical illness, I was able to bring him outdoors in a wheelchair in the rehabilitation facility. This outdoor activity lifted his spirits and I do believe it contributed to his recovery.

Practicing self-care

Are there special places like parks or neighborhoods that you would like to visit? Develop a plan to spend several times a week exposing yourself to the outdoors. Each activity should be individualized to each patient’s interests, needs, and abilities.

Self-care is important to a cancer survivor. The results of this study support the idea of healing with nature. Decide what aspects of the outdoors you can enjoy. For me, fresh air, chirping birds, and beautiful flowers are most refreshing. Develop a personalized plan and follow it. Anything we can do to promote good health and well being should be our priority.

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