Studies show there are major health benefits to going outside, even for just 15 minutes

In the past, research has proven that there are major health benefits to going outside, from de-stressing to expanding one's life expectancy. All you have to do is step outside to enjoy the sun, trees, birds, water or whatever is around you.

Now, St. Ives is encouraging people, specifically young women, to take a "nature reset." The natural skincare brand recently conducted a survey of 2,000 women between the ages of 16 and 25 and found that young women were more stressed than ever, but not many spent time outside—76 percent said they wish they spent more time outdoors, but over half said they lack the time to do so.

What many people don't realize, however, is that you don't need to spend much time in nature to reap the benefits. St. Ives also found that over half of the young women surveyed said they felt the positive effects of nature within 15 minutes.

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10 benefits of being in nature
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10 benefits of being in nature

Reduces stress

A study done by the University of East Anglia found people living closer to nature or who spent time in nature had lower blood pressure, heart rate and less stress. 

"One of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people's levels of salivary cortisol — a physiological marker of stress," lead author, Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from UEA's Norwich Medical School said in a report published to ScienceDaily."

Therefore the research team believes that forest bathing, a term coined in Japan that describes the act of spending time in nature, can significantly reduce stress.

"Forest bathing is already really popular as a therapy in Japan — with participants spending time in the forest either sitting or lying down, or just walking around. 

"Much of the research from Japan suggests that phytoncides — organic compounds with antibacterial properties -- released by trees could explain the health-boosting properties of forest bathing," they report.

It may enhance the functionality of your immune system

Just being in nature has the ability to increase one’s health, and according to University of Illinois environment and behavior researcher Ming Kuo, it all comes down to nature supporting the immune system. 

Through looking at research, she found that the immune system is a primary pathway to several diseases nature is able to provide protections again. 

Kuo explained in a report published by ScienceDaily that when the body is exposed to nature, it goes into “rest and digest mode,” allowing the immune system to work at its best. It’s the opposite of “fight or flight mode,” which is when the body shuts down everything that is nonessential, like the immune system. This mode is often a response to a change in hormones, like when one is feeling stressed.

Reduce risk of type II diabetes

A study done by the University of East Anglia found that living close to nature and spending time outside reduced the risk of type II diabetes.

Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

Studies show that being in nature can lower stress-activated hormones (like adrenaline) and higher levels of specialized blood cells that help keep the vascular system healthy.

Being around nature also increases the ability or motivation to exercise, even if it's just a walk in a park. 

"It is important to get into the outside environment. It’s more fun, you see others exercising, it’s a social thing," Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a cardiologist in Jacksonville, Florida and chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Clinical Cardiology told US News last year.

"If one can exercise outside, it is more productive and beneficial — more enjoyable. I have knee problems, so I open the windows and exercise, and it is more emotionally rewarding and productive, and I tend to exercise more,” he added.

Increases life expectancy

Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study on more than 108,000 women nationwide from 2000 to 2008 and found that women living in the greenest areas had a 12 percent lower death than those living in the least green areas.

Reduces risk of preterm birth

A study done by the University of East Anglia found that living close to nature and spending time outside reduced the risk of mother's having a preterm birth.

Reduces blood pressure

Several studies have proven that being around trees can reduce blood pressure, but one study done in 24 forests across Japan published in 2009 found that after walking in a forest, participants' average pulse was reduced by 4 percent and their blood pressure a little over 2 percent.

Boosts mental health 

A study conducted by Aarhus University in Denmark found that children who grew up in greener spaces or close to nature had a 55 percent less risk of developing various mental disorders as adults.

Boosts children's ability to focus and learn

Ming Kuo, associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois and lead author on the Frontiers in Psychology study found that being in nature increased children's ability to learn and achieve academic excellence.

"We found strong evidence that time in nature has a rejuvenating effect on attention; relieves stress; boosts self-discipline; increases physical activity and fitness; and promotes student self-motivation, enjoyment, and engagement," Kuo explained in a report published to ScienceDaily. "And all of these have been shown to improve learning."

"Report after report -- from independent observers as well as participants themselves -- indicate beneficial shifts in perseverance, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, and resilience. All of these line up with skills we know are important for kids' ability to thrive in the 21st century," Catherine Jordan, associate professor at U of M and co-author on the study added in the report.

Reduces distress and hyperactivity in children

A survey conducted with parents of small children by the Quantitative Data Analysis and Research Unit at the University of Auckland found that kids who had a closer connection with nature had fewer behavioral and emotional issues, as well as improved social behavior, less distress and less hyperactivity. 

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A study published in Scientific Reports in June led by the University of Exeter in England echoed their findings. The report said that spending 120 minutes in nature per week (about 17 minutes per day) was the sweet spot for obtaining all the benefits—less than didn't provide any greater benefits, while more time didn't provide any extra. 

In response, St. Ives created a #NatureReset bus to get people out of the office and into nature, if only for 15 minutes. It's a double decker bus covered in greenery that's inspired by St. Ives Face Mists' natural ingredients like lavender and grapefruit that started its journey in New York City this week and will soon travel to Philadelphia, Columbus and Chicago. (You can find more info on the bus here). 

The brand is also partnering with National Geographic to send a lucky winner and their friend on a photo expedition to Yellowstone National Park. To apply, post a photo of yourself outside experiencing your own nature reset from July 24 to August 31. In the caption, describe your setting and use #NatureReset and #StIvesNatGeoContest hashtags and tag @StIvesSkin and @natgeoadventure.

Curious to know exactly what are the positive benefits of nature? You can check out the slideshow above for more info and see more of St. Ives research in the infographic below:

Infographic courtesy of St. Ives

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