Nature Inspired Health Boosts

NatureSusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor

Spending days in front of computer screens under fluorescent lighting and evenings in front of television screens can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, depressed and lethargic. Recent studies have shown that time spent in the great outdoors boosts mood and overall health and positively impacts our long-term wellbeing. Turns out, nature is so good for us that doctors worldwide have begun prescribing time in nature as a means of improving health. Similar to the recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise, researchers have now quantified 120 minutes of natural sunlight and surroundings each week as beneficial to health. Any amount of time in nature, from a strenuous hike to a stroll in the park to a picnic by a lake, is all viewed as effective for improving overall mental outlook.

Incorporating time in nature as part of a lifestyle wellness plan is considered ideal. Growing research in the scientific field of ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between the amount of time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety and depression. It appears that the therapeutic benefits of interaction with natural spaces has a powerful effect on our mental state, as well as a positive impact on blood pressure and cortisol levels. Our connection to nature is so strong that even listening to recorded nature sounds or looking at pictures of natural settings can result in an outwardly directed focus of attention, similar to a relaxed state of restful daydreaming.

In Japan, forest bathing, defined as a short, leisurely visit to a forest, is regarded as natural aromatherapy and is recognized as a relaxation and stress management activity. Known as “Shinrinyoku,” a forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for respite and recreation while breathing in wood essential oils, such as pine and limonene, antimicrobial volatile organic compounds present in trees. A series of studies involving male and female Japanese adults investigated the effects of forest bathing on the immune system. The researchers found that those who participated in a 3day/2 night trip to a forest area significantly increased natural killer cell (NK) activity, while urinary adrenaline and noradrenaline significantly decreased.

Moreover, the increased NK activity lasted for more than 30 days after the trip, suggesting that a forest bathing trip once a month would enable individuals to maintain a higher level of NK activity. The findings indicate that forest bathing has beneficial effects on human immune function. NK cells, a type of white blood cell and a component of the innate immune system, play a major role in the host-rejection of tumor and virally infected cells, suggesting that forest bathing may have a preventative effect on cancer generation and development. Further, forest bathing’s association with relaxation and decreased stress appears to stabilize autonomic nervous activity. Forest bathing trips were found to increase vigor and decrease anxiety, depression and anger.

  • Several studies have shown that nature walks have memory promoting effects that walks in urban environments may not.
  • Time spent outdoors is associated with decreased heart rate, as well as lowered levels of stress hormones and inflammation.
  • By helping to eliminate mental fatigue, enjoying the outdoors appears to provide a mental boost.
  • Exercising in natural surroundings is associated with improved self-esteem and mood, as well as increased ability to focus.
  • Research shows that those who exercise outdoors are more likely to maintain their exercise routine as opposed to those who exercise at the gym.
  • Nature therapy may also improve focusing ability and boost creative thinking and problem solving performance.

Although many enjoy spending time outdoors, the average American spends nearly 93 percent of their time indoors. If you’re lucky enough to live near a forest, work on getting out and taking advantage of the health benefits. Not living within close proximity of a forest doesn’t matter, as living near any greenspace is associated with a 12 percent lower mortality rate and lower prevalence of disease, including cancer, lung and kidney disease. ‘Greenspace’ is defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation, as well as urban greenspaces, which include parks and street greenery. According to global data, populations with better access to greenspace are more likely to report overall good health and long-term wellbeing.

References:
Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature
It’s official – spending time outside is good for you. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm
5 Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature. http://www.floridahealth.gov/newsroom/2018/06/062818-article-5-health-benefits-of-spending-time-in-nature.html
How Much Nature Is Enough? 120 Minutes a Week, Doctors Say. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/13/health/nature-outdoors-health.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Health
Being outside can improve memory, fight depression, and lower blood pressure – here are 12 science-backed reasons to spend more time outdoors. https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7
Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793341/
Natural Killer Cell. https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/natural_killer_cell.htm

Does BMI Still Matter?

BMIJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

Surprisingly, the BMI, or body mass index, was created back in the 1830’s by Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian mathematician, astronomer and statistician, who developed a passionate interest in probability calculus that he applied to study human physical characteristics and social aptitudes. Disregarding growth spurts after birth and during puberty, Quetelet concluded that “weight increases as the square of height.” Known as the Quetelet Index until 1972, when it was termed Body Mass Index by Ansel Keys, BMI is the standard metric used to determine whether a person is under weight, normal weight, overweight or obese. The measure is revealed by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. As well, BMI calculators can be easily found online.

BMI Measurements:

  • Underweight: Below 18.5
  • Proper weight: Between 18.5 and 25
  • Overweight: Between 25 and 30
  • Obese: Above 30

Well over a century later, BMI is still utilized as a measure of health, although it expresses the relationship between height and weight as a single number regardless of frame size and musculature. Proponents of the use of the BMI say that it remains relevant to an individual’s disease and mortality risk. Generally, those with excess weight are at a higher risk of developing a range of chronic conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, liver disease, sleep apnea, hypertension and high cholesterol, as well as breast, colon and prostate cancers. Independent of disease risk, those with high BMIs often report feeling better physically and psychologically with weight reduction.

Although it’s a useful starting point for the realization that disease risk rises along with weight, BMI, as a single measure, has its limitations. A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity, examined cardiometabolic health misclassifications given standard BMI categories. Utilizing data such as blood pressure, triglyceride, cholesterol, glucose, insulin resistance and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, the researchers found that nearly half of those considered overweight by BMI had a healthy cardiometabolic profile, including normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. They also found that 30 percent of individuals with normal BMI measures had an unhealthy cardiometabolic profile.

While it remains a good idea to know your BMI number, it’s also important to recognize that it is simply a measure of size, and not a measure of health that indicates the absence or presence of disease. Indeed, there are those who have a high or low BMI who are healthy, as well as those with a normal BMI who are unhealthy. When relying solely on the one size fits all BMI measurement as the main indicator of health, more than 75 million adults may be mislabeled as cardiometabolically healthy or unhealthy. In fact, a person with a normal BMI who smokes and has a family history of cardiovascular disease is likely to have a higher risk of early cardiovascular death than someone who has a high BMI but is physically fit and a non-smoker.

BMI is widely used because it’s an easy and simple way to provide a reasonable measure of body fat. It does not consider the location of fat within the body and fails to account for differences in race, gender, age, height loss in older persons, or muscle weight in athletic individuals. While groups of researchers continue to debate the science of weight and poor health, some studies suggest that carrying a small amount of extra weight can improve survival of chronic disease. Just as a low BMI can indicate an illness, a recent UCLA study concluded that tens of millions of people who had overweight and obese BMI scores were in fact perfectly healthy. For those who follow a wholesome lifestyle and consume a nourishing diet, exercise, prioritize sleep and maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, an extra few pounds may not be so unhealthy after all.

References:
Adolphe Quetelet (179-1874)—the average man and indices of obesity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17890752
Misclassification of cardiometabolic health when using body mass index categories in NHANES 2005-2012. https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo201617
How useful is the body mass index (BMI)? https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-useful-is-the-body-mass-index-bmi-201603309339
BMI Not a Good Measure of Healthy Body Weight, Researchers Argue. https://www.livescience.com/39097-bmi-not-accurate-health-measure.html

YouVeda™ – Featured Brand

YouvedaSusan Brown Health and Wellness EditorProfessional Supplement Center now offers family owned YouVeda™, a line of products that takes a holistic approach to mind-body balance for overall wellness. Utilizing a fusion of Ayurvedic principles, herbal extracts, modern science and technology, YouVeda’s innovative, complete support supplements are designed to empower physical, mental and emotional health in a modern easy way. YouVeda™, meaning knowledge of yourself, is based on the belief that similar to nature, people thrive when they are in balance. Based on 5,000 year old Ayurvedic principles that rely on the intelligence of nature and the body’s ability to heal itself, YouVeda™ offers products to improve mood, strengthen the immune system and enhance overall wellbeing.

Their doctor formulated products are backed by thirty years of clinical experience. Supplements are manufactured, tested and packaged in FDA approved American facilities in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs). All products utilize synergistic, 100% organic, wild harvested, DNA tested and dosha balancing ingredients sourced from native regions and picked in-season to ensure the highest quality. All herbal ingredients are tested in the USA for purity, efficacy and safety. Finished products undergo additional testing to assure the absence of heavy metals and microbials. YouVeda™ supports fair wages and sustainable farming practices and works with local forestry departments to ensure a healthy economic ecosystem.

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