Going Back to Nature to Improve Health

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • My family and I just returned from a little field trip to Colorado. Typically St. Louis-based, we have friends who spend their summers there and invited us to join them in a two-week relocation this July. And who says no to two weeks in Aspen?


    As it turns out, changing up our location really changed my outlook - and added a new "tool" to my wellness armamentarium: outside recreation, and lots of it.


    I consider myself to be very active - above average in that department, actually. But apparently not so much when it comes to the Colorado contingent. It seemed to all of us in the Haines clan that the Colorado lifestyle places an unusually high emphasis on outside recreation. Also interesting was the unusual-in-America focus on healthful eating and farm-to-table approach. We noticed a solid trend toward a more conscious approach in how one spends the day movement-wise and also in what one chooses to fuel the movement with. Making time outside a priority each and every day; something that everything else (work, perhaps?) fits around and supports, rather than the other way around.

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    And when in Rome…


    For my entire family, there was a noticeable shift in mood and an overall feeling of well-being, directly correlated to the amount of time spent outside and physically active in nature's playground.


    On the way back to St. Louis, as irony would have it, I read a press release on a new study that delved into outdoor recreational activity and its effect on mental and physical health of veterans. The researchers found that participation in group-based outdoor recreational activities correlated with benefits in psychological well-being, social functioning, and life outlook.


    In the study, 98 veterans experienced a four- to seven-day group outdoor recreation program. The improvements were noted by one week after the outdoor experience and improvements persisted at one month. What's more, veterans who initially reported more severe health issues had even better results.


    Reading this, I immediately connected it back to our relocation experience. It wasn't scientifically conducted, this personal "study" of the Haines clan (n=4) and each of our well-being before and after our trip to the Rockies, but I can tell you that spending more time in nature, with/without physical activity to go along with it, does me a world of good. In my quest to optimize my lifestyle in pursuit of better physical and mental well-being with the everyday tools at my disposal, I may just need to prescribe a daily dose of outside for myself, Colorado-style.


    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.



Published On: August 06, 2013