Nature as Medicine: The HealthBenefits of Outdoor Education

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Discover the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor education. Learn how being outdoors can boost your well-being.

In a time of such unprecedented and dramatic changes, connecting with nature can be a helpful way to cope with modern life. Studies continue to show the links between mental health and exposure to the great outdoors. 

Outdoor education has become increasingly important in light of our current lifestyles that keep us largely inside and glued to screens indoors. 

In this blog post, you’ll learn how experiential education can positively impact your physical and mental health while discovering new ways to connect with one another through nature-focused activities.

Physical Health Benefits of Outdoor Education

Let’s take a look at some of the physical health benefits of outdoor education. 

Increased Vitamin D Intake:

Woman running in field
Nature as Medicine: The HealthBenefits of Outdoor Education

One of the biggest benefits of outdoor learning spaces is increased exposure to natural sunlight, which our bodies use to synthesize Vitamin D. 

Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, as it helps to absorb calcium from food sources and regulate calcitriol levels in our bodies. 

According to Clarke, M. the amount of Vitamin D that we get from food sources alone is typically not enough to meet our daily requirements, so spending time outdoors can help us reach those goals and keep our bones strong.

Improved Fitness

Woman, thumbs up, with water bottle
Nature as Medicine: The HealthBenefits of Outdoor Education

Outdoor expeditions such as walking, running, or cycling can help improve overall fitness levels. 

Research has shown that regular exercise increases energy levels and reduces fatigue in both children and adults alike. 

During outdoor education trips, students can be encouraged to walk or run from one place to another instead of taking public transport or vehicles. 

This will not only save money but also help students stay fit and active for longer periods of time.

Improved Balance and Coordination 

Outdoor activities like rock climbing or hiking can also help improve balance and coordination. 

Rock climbing requires an ability to judge distances accurately while maintaining balance, which helps develop both gross motor skills as well as fine motor skills needed for everyday tasks such as writing or typing. 

Trekking through uneven terrain strengthens muscles in the lower body while helping build agility and coordination. 

Boosted Immune System 

Another great benefit of learning in outdoor spaces is that it may help boost children’s immune systems by exposing them to natural elements such as sunlight and fresh air. 

Studies have found that being exposed to natural elements can help reduce stress hormones in children which can lead to improved mental and emotional well-being too. 

Additionally, being outside exposes kids to different types of bacteria which helps build up their immunity over time. 

It also allows them to develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stressors that come along with everyday life.

Mental Health Benefits of Outdoor Education

Black woman meditating
Nature as Medicine: The HealthBenefits of Outdoor Education

Beyond the obvious physical benefits of being outdoors, there are also great mental health benefits associated with outdoor education.

Stress Reduction

Health experts from midss.org, state that spending time outdoors can reduce stress levels significantly by providing an opportunity for relaxation and contemplation away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

Taking a break from work or school by going on a hike or walking in nature can be incredibly beneficial for reducing stress levels and improving mental well-being in general.

Enhanced Cognitive Functioning

Spending time outdoors has also been linked to enhanced cognitive functioning due to increased exposure to natural sunlight (which helps us produce more serotonin). 

Serotonin is essential for regulating moods and emotions, so getting more of it through outdoor activities can help keep us feeling balanced mentally as well as physically!  

Improved Self-Awareness 

Another benefit of outdoor education and social science is increased self-awareness. Spending time in nature allows you to connect more deeply with yourself, as you are forced to confront your own thoughts and feelings without any distractions or outside influences. 

This heightened awareness can lead to a better understanding of yourself and your place in the world around you, which can be incredibly beneficial for those struggling with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. 

Social Benefits of Outdoor Education

People studying outside
Nature as Medicine: The HealthBenefits of Outdoor Education

More than just a fun way for students to take a break from the classroom, outdoor education can also offer an array of social benefits. Let’s take a look at some examples. 

Teamwork and Cooperation 

Outdoor education often includes adventure sports programs, such as camping trips, hikes, and other adventures. 

These kinds of adventure education require teamwork and cooperation among all participants, which can help to build relationships, trust, and communication skills. 

According to San Mateo County Office, by working together outdoors, students develop an understanding of how their individual contributions are important to the success of the whole team. 

This can also be beneficial in helping them understand their own self-worth and confidence. 

Social Interaction 

When students are in outdoor learning environments, it encourages them to interact with one another. In turn, they will develop leadership skills, critical thinking, and broaden their learning areas.

In fact, studies have shown that outdoor education programs significantly increase student engagement in both academic performance and extracurricular settings. 

Being able to interact with peers in active ways outside of school hours or class periods provides unique opportunities for learning about each other’s cultures and backgrounds that may not be available in the traditional classroom setting. 

Respect for Nature 

Outdoor education in the natural world is also beneficial because it teaches students respect for nature and its inhabitants. 

Learning about the environment from an experiential standpoint allows them to build emotional connections with animals and plants on a deeper level than if they were just reading about them in books or seeing them on television screens. 

This connection helps promote empathy towards all living things which can have positive effects on their behavior both inside and outside of school settings. 

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