Health benefits

OUTDOORS: Research Highlights Health Benefits of Outdoors | Sports

Since 1970, the United States has celebrated Earth Day on April 22, and many other celebrations center around the arrival of spring that month. The Rails to Trails Conservancy recognizes April 23 as Trails Day with events in all 50 states, including several held along the Katy Trail in Missouri.

The state Department of Conservation highlights April as Outdoors Month in Missouri, signaling the start of the spring turkey hunting season, with crappie fishing warming up as temperatures rise. the surface of the water begins to rise, the air filling the forests as the birds mark their territories and attempt to woo their mates. , and the emergence of morels in secret places.

All of these are great reasons to get out, but we shouldn’t need designated days, weeks, or months as excuses to step away from computer and TV screens, open doors, and enjoy all the goodness. fresh air and wild places have. to offer.

A new book published this month, “Return to Nature”, documents research from around the world explaining how different landscapes can help heal people physically and mentally, while highlighting the importance of healing the land to secure these resources for future generations.

This is the second book by environmental journalist Emma Loewe. Harper Collins Publishers offered me a review copy. I found it well-written, insightful, and incredibly researched, citing studies and essays from all over the planet.

“How can we convince ourselves that stepping back from our screens and going out is not a luxury but an essential part of being human?” asks Loewe in the introduction. Then she provides step-by-step plans for finding those opportunities in eight different environments, one chapter at a time.

Mountains, oceans, deserts, rivers, forests, gardens, cities, and even snowy landscapes can all provide natural medicine in their own way. One of my favorite suggestions from the book is to get a prescription from your doctor to visit a park.

“Instead of the name of a medication, you would see a directive to take a walk around your local park for thirty minutes three times a week,” Loewe writes. Research proves that in addition to relieving stress and anxiety, activity can also help lower blood pressure, improve resting heart rate, lose weight and more.

The restorative power of nature doesn’t need big places like oceans and mountains to be effective. The book is about the simple and free activity of cloud detection. When was the last time you just looked up and saw white clouds changing shape as they sailed through a brilliant blue sky? Do you remember the carefree childhood days lying on a grassy hill, watching the evolution of nature’s art? It’s a dose of stress-free, cost-free calm.

Each chapter ends with ideas for putting the information into practice. Whether you have five minutes or an hour, or you have the ambition to take on a big project, there are suggestions and action items.

Loewe also points to the impact humans have on the environment, while conceding that trying to scare people into protecting the planet hasn’t worked. Yet one statistic she cites is quite frightening: up to 99% of the plastic in our oceans is invisible.

“There isn’t a single big island of plastic in the middle of the ocean. It’s those little bits that are so hard to see we can’t even tell them apart,” said Emily Penn, co-founder of a group studying the impact of pollution on the ocean Microplastics are as abundant as plankton when looking at ocean water under a microscope.

My math tells me that if the 99% statistic is correct, then for every Diet Coke bottle you see floating in the waves, there’s almost 100 times that volume of plastic in pieces five millimeters long or less in water – and in the wildlife that lives there.

As Earth Day has reminded us for over 50 years, our attitude towards our planet, our home, can improve with a return to nature. Loewe’s insightful book provides a trail to follow.

John Winkelman is marketing director for Liguori Publications near Barnhart, Mo., and associate editor for Outdoor Guide Magazine. If you have story ideas to share for Leader’s outside news page, email, and you’ll find more outside news and updates at