Health benefits of the outdoors

Studies find that time spent outdoors can improve a person’s physical and mental well-being.

A photo of a woman wearing a backpack and hiking through the woods

With cooling temperatures and changing colors, more people may start to find themselves outdoors during the fall, enjoying moderate weather before winter begins. Being in nature provides more health benefits than just getting a change of scenery or clean air, with studies showing that it can profoundly impact a person’s physical and mental well-being for the better.

A report published by the Forest Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), stated that being outside supports better physical and mental health, as well as overall community wellness. Research conducted at Cornell University found that spending as little as 10 minutes outside surrounded by nature can improve blood pressure and heart rate. When blood pressure and heart rate are chronically elevated, this can lead to cardiovascular disease, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The CDC report suggests that being outdoors can promote better physical health and long-term positive health outcomes.

In addition to increased physical wellness, a report published by the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed that time spent in nature can help improve mood, lower stress, reduce the incidence of psychiatric disorders and improve empathy and cooperation. The APA also reports experimental findings that being in natural environments helps improve cognitive functions such as memory and attention, while urban environments are often linked to deficits in these areas.

Research also indicates that nature helps relieve social isolation in people with low social connectedness. Social isolation has been linked to increased risk of health disease and stroke, type II diabetes, depression, anxiety, addiction, suicidality and self-harm, dementia and premature death according to the CDC.

If you need help finding a place to connect to nature, try asking your local chamber of commerce or park system about local trails and recreation sites, or check out to find outdoor areas near you.

While going outside helps promote an overall healthier lifestyle, it is not a substitute for healthy eating, regular medical attention and professional mental health support when needed. Always speak to a licensed medical provider with concerns regarding your physical and mental well-being. With all the benefits of being outside, the fall also brings the need for vaccinations such as the updated COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines. Please see your healthcare provider and schedule an appointment to stay up to date on your fall vaccines.

Help finding a doctor:

If you need help finding a doctor, try searching for primary care physicians or gynecologists in your area that are highly recommended, search your insurance provider’s website for doctors in your network, or ask for recommendations from friends and neighbors. There are also search engines such as that can help you narrow your search based on region and specialty needed.

Where can you find vaccines?

To find a vaccine, check with your primary care physician, local health departments, pharmacies, and clinics. You can also visit to locate a vaccine clinic near you.

If you would like to learn more about vaccines, check out Michigan State University Extension’s partnership with the Michigan Vaccine Project to find links to event schedules, podcasts, publications, webinars and videos relating to vaccine education.

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