It’s an understatement to say that we’re living in unusual times. Our routines have been disrupted by school closings, social distancing, working from home, and quarantining. The uncertainty and uniqueness of this situation puts stress on our partners, our children, and our careers. But in these times, it’s more important than ever to find opportunities to reduce stress and energize our immune systems.
And one of the simplest, most beneficial ways to reduce stress is getting outside into nature. A previous RISE blog outlines the benefits of nature on changing your mood and that advice has never been more useful in these times.
Take a 20-Minute “Nature Pill” to Reduce Stress Hormone Levels
A recent study found that just twenty minutes sitting or walking in nature will have significant benefits in reducing our stress hormone levels.
But if you spend a little more time, say 20 to 30 minutes, cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate. And additional time after that helps reduce stress as well but at a slower rate. It is important to maintain balanced cortisol levels for a strong immune system and good health.
The study defined nature for the participants as anywhere outside that made them feel like they’re interacting with nature. This may be the healthiest (and most FUN) prescription ever.
Nature Reduces Stress and Sunlight Energizes T-Cells
In addition to nature’s ability to reduce stress, sunlight can energize T cells, an essential component of the immune system.
We’ve long known about the sun’s ability to help us make vitamin D. But T cells need to move in order to do their work of getting to the site of an infection and responding in kind. Sunlight directly activates these key immune cells by increasing their mobility.
Social Distancing and Enjoying Nature Responsibly
RISE is always committed to keeping people healthy and happy. In the spirit of health, please be respectful of the new social guidelines when going outside, heading to the trails, or enjoying nature. It’s critical for all of us to practice social distancing by keeping a distance of at least six feet between ourselves to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Lots of people are going to want to get outside so it’s critical that distancing ourselves from others takes priority.
Dr. Sonja Stilp is a spine and sports medicine physician practicing in Boulder, CO. She provides personalized care for the athlete in all of us. Sonja enjoys walking, hiking, and running in the Colorado Rockies with her family and friends.