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Celebrating Earth Day? You'll Be Healthier.

Earth Day is here, and, usually, I take the day for granted. After all, I already honor our planet. I'm pretty good about recycling; I don't pollute, and what else is there to do?

It turns out there are other ways of honoring the earth, and some surprising reasons for doing it. In fact, I see one reason every time I go for a walk or hike. Getting inspiration for my writing is easy in Colorado's beautiful scenery.

This got me thinking: could spending time in nature actually benefit our health? Well, research has shown a relationship between nature and health. Spending time outdoors is good for everyone.

Here’s why.

Nature boosts happiness.

The National Institutes of Health library, summarizing a report on activity outdoors, notes "the potential benefits to emotional recovery from stress offered by green space."

Yes, greenery helps relieve stress.

That might explain why flowers are a popular way of saying "I'm sorry" or "I love you." The benefits of nature go beyond stress relief, though. They also include a feeling of overall well-being, as shown in a University of Rochester study revealing that people who feel connected to nature tend to feel more alive than people who don't.

Professor Richard Ryan notes that "Nature is something within which we flourish, so having it be more a part of our lives is critical, especially when we live and work in built environments."

So, not only to nature and health go together, but so do nature and happiness.

Exercising outdoors is easier to continue.

We all have days when we don't feel like hitting the treadmill or the gym. But, people who get their exercise in nature, rather than indoors, are more likely to keep it up.

The Huffington Post quotes a study at the U.S. National Library of Medicine which reports: "Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy."

That's not all. The summary continues: "Participants reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date."

So, if you have a hard time making time for a regular workout, try taking it outside.

All ages need exposure to nature.

I've always liked playing with my family, and it turns out that playing outdoors has extra benefits for children as well as adults.

The National Wildlife Federation reports that "The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen."

It's easy to see what's wrong with that.

Not only does being outdoors encourage physical activity, but it also boosts exposure to Vitamin D and even benefits vision. According to the American Academy of Optometry, spending time in nature improves distance vision.

Getting outside is equally beneficial for adults, well into their senior years. Research in the Journal of Aging Health reveals that independent older people who go out daily show improved health and reduced decline in their abilities.

How will you celebrate Earth Day?

Just like the holidays honoring our mothers and veterans for all they've done for us, it's rewarding to honor the earth. How? First, by going outdoors and exploring it.

If you'd like to do even more, consider:

  • Planting a garden
  • Organizing a neighborhood event
  • Installing solar panels
  • Contacting elected officials about your priorities
  • Adopting a new habit
Most of all, remember nature and health are made for each other. Enjoy the earth -- and better health!

Also read: 9 tips for the weekend warrior to stay injury free

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