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A Green Bill of Health

by Hollis Hughes
A woman sits in a meadow and smiles as she gazes into the distance.
iStock / Marco VDM

Starting a healthier lifestyle can be intimidating, but the first step can be as easy as stepping outside your door! Being outdoors supports wellness in a number of ways — studies prove that nature makes you smarter, stronger, healthier, happier, and more productive!

September 8-14, 2020, is Wellness Week, so we’ve teamed up with our partner L.L.Bean to highlight some of the ways to enjoy the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of the outdoors when you visit a national park. Check out our tips below on how national parks can boost your health and wellbeing.

Take My Stress Away

Two people, one walking a dog, walk uphill along a dirt path
Visitors walking along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (NPS Photo / Bhoj Rai)

Practicing social distancing means avoiding close contact with other people outside of your immediate household — not the outdoors! Spending time in nature is key to combatting feelings of isolation and anxiety when you're cooped up at home. Viewing and spending time in nature lowers cortisol and blood pressure and is linked with lowering levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Gather your loved ones and #RecreateResponsibly by visiting a national park in your community and following these tips for a safe and fun park adventure.

Better Out than In

Visitors enjoying a blooming marsh at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens (NPS Photo / Victoria Stauffenberg)

Being healthy in the outdoors doesn’t have to mean hiking up Mount Rainier or climbing El Capitan (though those certainly count)! You can enjoy the benefits of nature simply by taking your favorite activities outside. Exercising in nature leads to greater health benefits than performing the same activity indoors, so why not bring your favorite activity outside? Go for a walk or run on a nearby trail instead of the treadmill or unroll your yoga mat on the shores of a nearby lake instead of your living room.

In fact, any activity is better for you when done outdoors: a 30-minute visit to a park can improve heart health, circulation and lower cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure. So instead of reading on your couch or coloring at the table with your kids, try a change of scenery to somewhere green at your local national park.

Check the Morning Tweets

Spotted Towhees perched in Arches National Park (NPS Photo / Martin Tow)

Instead of browsing social media, why not head outdoors to hear the twittering of birds? Natural sounds, like the wind in the trees, babbling brooks, rustling grass, and chirping crickets provide a peaceful backdrop away from the cacophony of man-made noise. National parks offer a diverse array of landscapes and soundscapes — check out PARKTRACKS for a preview of what's playing in a park near you. Surrounding yourself with the sounds and smells of nature has a calming effect and helps reduce mental fatigue, so get outside, close your eyes, and take a deep breath.

Getting to Green

Visitors walking and cycling River Mountains Loop Trail at Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NPS Photo / Andrew Cattoir)

Want to be active outside but not sure where to begin? National parks offer a number of easy, accessible, and fun activities that can help you get started, like fishing, camping, walking, hiking, stargazing or even picnicking! Spending at least 2 hours a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing, so explore the diverse natural resources available at your local national park to find what fits your lifestyle. We've made it easy to find a park near you where you can enjoy your favorite healthy outdoor activities — and discover new ways to recreate!

Ready to make nature part of your wellness regimen? A great place to start is your local L.L.Bean store to get outfitted for all your outdoor adventures. Tell us all about your favorite outdoor activities, wellness tips, and favorite ways to enjoy the restorative power of nature in the comments, and share your pictures with us using the hashtags #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque on social media.