• Connie Byers


Colorado Mountains
Image via This Unbound Life

What exactly does living an outdoor lifestyle mean anyway?

To some people it means spending as much of their spare time as possible in the outdoors. For others it means that ski bum that chases fresh powder all year round and never has a job.

For us it means living in and with nature as much as possible, drawing not only our food and sustenance from the outdoors, but also our exercise and activities too.

That's a tall order mother nature! And her ability to fill it is possibly a very good reason why nature is referred to as "mother."

I promised you a list of reasons why an outdoor lifestyle can add years to your life, and below I'll break down each element for you. I'll start with one of the most obvious, exercise.

1. Exercise

There's almost no getting around in the wild world without it. Whether you're trail running, hiking, skiing, paddling or rowing if you are moving through the great outdoors it's most likely being done under your own steam and therefore equaling out to, you guessed it, exercise, no mater how much fun you may actually be having. I could probably spend all day linking you to studies proving how increased exercise increases lifespan, but I know you know this one. Oh, you need a link? Okay, check out this one from PLOS One

2. Decreased Stress Level

Stress is a huge factor in longevity. We all know stress reduction can sometimes be hard to come by in this modern world of schedules, societal pressures, responsibilities and general chaos. However, studies done by the ADAA show how increased exercise reduces stress levels, and when combined with the healing factors of green spaces as discussed in a recently published study by the University of East Anglia in England you get a win win on outdoor activities.

3. Weight Loss

Anther super easy coloration to come to, an increase in activity and a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol will surely equal out to weight loss. In our California lives, we spent as much time in the outdoors as possible, but with two plus hour commutes (each way) our only free time was on the weekends. Weekdays we would barely manage to get some food in our bellies before passing out so we could start the rat race all over again. Saturday was often spent licking our wounds from hellish work weeks and that left us with just Sunday as our prime adventure day. The rest of our lives were completely sedentary. And it showed!

4. Improved Mood

The whole reason we spend time being active in the outdoors in because it brings us joy. Whether it's the exhilaration of summiting a peak you thought might end you or the simple joy of reaching an untouched space the adventure brings you joy. On the list of things that increase longevity, happiness is high ranking. In an article published by CNN they discuss a five-year study that showing older people are 35% less likely to die if they can report feeling happy. Who wouldn’t want a 35% increase on life?

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” - George F. Burns

5. Healthier Diet

The more active you become, the more you realize the food you put in your body, is the fuel that will help you to be more productive in your activities. You wouldn't put low grade fuel in a performance engine would you? If you're living an active outdoor life, you've just become a performance engine. A candy bar might give you a quick burn, but if you want to make it to the end of the trail you're going to need a longer burning fuel. This includes whole grains, fresh fruits, and healthy proteins, such as fish and nuts. All the items that can fuel you for endurance also happen to be heart healthy foods that can help you live longer. I'll call that a win any day!

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hypocrites

6. Decrease in Blood Pressure

All of the factors listed above combine to give you another notch in favor of a longer life. A result of increasing exercise, losing weight, decreasing stress, increasing happiness and eating a heart healthy diet is lower blood pressure. If you're like most people over the age of 35 your doctor has had at least one conversation with you about decreasing your blood pressure already. I like the bonus points on this one being a symptom of the cure!

7. Increased Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D is required to help your body absorb calcium, promote bone growth, regulate your immune system and plays a major role in the life cycle of your cells. In fact, according to WebMD "Vitamin D is so important that your body makes it by itself -- but only after exposure to sufficient sunlight." There is a draw back on this one though. We use sunscreen to block UVB rays, but UVB is actually the light you need for your body to kick into Vitamin D production. The good news is you only need about fifteen minutes of sunshine exposure on bare skin to start the process so try leaving the sunscreen off on short journeys, or set yourself a timer to remind you to add the sunscreen after you've gotten your vitamins!

8. Your Concentration May Improve

"Richard Louv coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" in his 2008 book Last Child in the Woods. It's his very own play on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Researchers have, in fact, reported that children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors." Since most of the studies done on this subject apply to children, there's no way of telling how it may pertain to adults, But all I'm saying is if you're having trouble concentrating you may want to take a step outside and see if some time in the green helps you focus. It surely cant hurt, and given all the benefits of being active in the outdoors it's sure to help something!

9. You May Heal Faster

According to information found on Harvard Health it's also possible that exposure to nature may help you to heal faster. In their article, they sight a study from University of Pittsburgh done in 2005 reporting that surgery patients had a decrease in pain medication, experienced less recovery related stress and had less pain overall if exposed to natural light. I'm not saying that you should get out and hike a trail while recovering from surgery, but if you can find a nice place in the great outdoors to sit and soak up some nature time while your recovering you may just find that the healing goes a little smoother. I guess we can't specifically say that healing faster will help you live longer, but if your going crazy from cabin fever during your recovery, as any outdoor enthusiast will tell you happens, I'm betting the people around you will live longer if you get healed up quicker so you can get back to adventuring!

"And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul" - John Muir

What benefits have you found in living an outdoor lifestyle? We'd love to hear all about them in the comments!

Until Next Time,

#unboundlife #outdoorlife #durango #colorado #healthyliving #longevity #healthandwellness #getoutside #unbound #unboundlife

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