Registered home health nurse Susannah Bonner loves the days when her Monday-Friday job starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. When that happens, she's able to put on her athletic shoes after work and walk in the great outdoors of small town Canton, Georgia. "I put the music on, and I'm not dwelling about work," she says. "I do all that so that once I go back out and am in a home, it's all about that person."
Along with improved heart rate and other physical benefits of walking, Bonner is tapping into the sheer benefits of breathing fresh air and being around nature.
Sure, part of the benefit is the movement. According to the CDC, physical activity helps bump up your brain function, can lower the risk of heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and some cancers, and boost mood. But if you add what researchers call "forest therapy" or "forest bathing," the health boost is almost designed to combat the stress inherent in nursing work. And it boosts brain power, too.
A University of Michigan study, for example, demonstrated that those who walked in areas with lots of trees improved their memory by almost 20 percent. Another study of healthy nurses who went "forest bathing" on a three-day, two-night trip in northwest Japan showed a substantial increase in the immune-boosting "Natural killer" activity, and it lasted at least seven days after the trip was over. Researchers have also determined that heart rate and cortisol levels both plummet when study subjects spend time in the forest.
But how do office- and hospital-corridor bound nurses get this nature boost? Try these tips to increase your chances:
Get an annual membership to a nature preserve.
Some meetup groups, like the Atlanta Healthcare Professsionals Group, take hikes and have pool parties on the lake when they're not doing city-based activities.
Take lessons in the great outdoors.
Nurses are great learners, and improving skills in anything from archery to kayaking is a great way to get more nature time.
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