Stress is becoming a nearly unavoidable part of life. We stress about work, school, family gatherings and new or old relationships. Thankfully, outdoor activities help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Here are a few ideas for fun, stress-reducing outdoor activities to get you started.
Yoga has long been proven to have boundless benefits. The complementary exercise that combines mental and physical discipline has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s a great choice for individuals of any athletic ability because there are so many different styles for everyone, from beginners to yogis. Outdoor yoga becomes more popular as the weather warms and you can comfortably take your yoga mat outside. This adds to the benefits that yoga already offers, because being outdoors naturally reduces your stress levels as well.
A study conducted in Scotland found that individuals who lived in natural areas and spent time outdoors had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who lived in a city or other urban environment. If you’re not comfortable with your yoga skills, look into some outdoor classes in your area. In some cities, large groups of yogis will get together to practice their skills in parks and other open areas, so you could look into that as an option.
Depending on where you live, hiking might be a great option to help get you outdoors and reduce your stress levels. Even if you don’t have hiking trails in your area, just taking a walk through a local park can help lower your stress levels. A study in the U.K. found that walking through parks or other natural locations has the same effect on your brain as a form of meditation, which has also been shown to reduce stress and improve mental health. This doesn’t have to be an all-day trek; start by just going for a brisk walk in the park. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel.
Biking is a great low-impact exercise that gets you outside. It can also be a great way to improve your physical health while getting some cardio in, too. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has found that exercise, especially cardio exercise, can help reduce stress. And one poll found that around 14 percent of individuals use exercise specifically to deal with stress. Biking can also be a fantastic way to explore your city from a new perspective. Just bring a bike lock with you so you can protect your wheels while you explore a new restaurant or store that you might have overlooked if you did all your exploring by car.
Play isn’t just for kids anymore. It’s a surprisingly effective way to stay healthy while reducing your overall stress levels. We’ve already discussed how being outdoors can reduce stress and boost your overall mental health, but it’s also the type of play that most people prefer — in nearly every study, participants responded that they preferred playing outside than indoor play. This is why some companies are starting to design their playgrounds to cater to people of all ages. Check to see what sort of facilities are available in your area — not all playgrounds are designed to handle the weight of an adult, but there should be a few places where you can let go and just play.
5. Dog walking.
Spending time with a dog can be a great way to both reduce your stress and improve your overall health. Studies have found that pet owners enjoy reduced stress, higher levels of oxytocin (the feel-good chemical) and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Even if you don’t have your own dog, there are most likely shelters in your area that are looking for volunteer dog walkers to help their animals exercise and socialize while they’re waiting for their forever homes. Who knows, you might even find your new four-legged best friend while you’re volunteering as a dog walker.
6. Water sports.
There’s nothing quite as relaxing as getting out on the water. Whether you’re surfing, paddle boarding, or just relaxing on the shore, water sports are a great way to reduce stress. First, these sports have the same effect as any other exercise — lower cortisol levels and reduced stress. Additionally, a study found that living by the sea or just living near blue spaces helps reduce stress. The study, completed by the University of Exeter, found that the calming atmosphere created by the ocean trends to reduce stress by giving people a more positive outlook.
No matter what is causing stress in your life, take some time to enjoy one of these summer activities to send daily worries to the back burner and improve your overall outlook. You might be surprised how much better you feel.
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