test-Outdoor Science Backed Benefits
Energy, Stress and Mood
Outdoor Science Backed Benefits
Julie Larson, Senior Regulatory Specialist • March 29, 2024

Letting Nature Nuture You

A walk outside seems to invigorate the senses in a way nothing else can, blood rushing through our veins, oxygen in our lungs. We can feel so much lighter, our hearts content and minds bursting with ideas. If you’ve wondered why it feels so good, you’re not the only one.

Humans have long connected therapeutic benefits with being in nature: “Hippocrates extolled the necessity of ‘airs, waters, and places.’”(1) Likely, ancient humans could never have conceived of the unique technostresses of modern life: sitting for long periods, with an excess of screen time, often too busy to eat healthy. Yet here we are, overwhelmed and cooped up inside.

There’s an increasingly large body of research investigating how our body systems regulate when outdoors. We evolved immersed in the natural world and these roots run so deep that you may be wondering why we need science to tell us anything we already know. The simple fact is modern life can sometimes make nature seem out of reach and science can help provide compelling reasons to get back outside.

Nature can help

Sitting and starting at a screen can leave us mentally fatigued in a way that can feel a little demoralizing and not exactly ready to get back to it. When we focus our undivided attention on visual stimuli for a long period of time, our brains can start to lose focus and it can be difficult to pay attention. It’s called directed attention fatigue.

What happens if we take a beat outside?

Attention Restoration Theory (ART) posits that sensory stimulation found in natural environments can provide replenished energy to help us recover and restore some of our directed attention capacity.(2) The idea is that taking even a brief walk outside can help us recharge our energy and focus. Scientists are still trying to understand if and how this is happening, but studies show that visiting green spaces can reduce the psychological stress that so often permeates modern life.

  • Ewert, et al. 2018. Analyzes the differences between “levels” of nature looking at what difference can be found between the benefits found at a public park versus being in a forest. The deeper we go into nature, the more we relax.
  • Twohig-Bennett, et al. 2018. This meta-analysis reviewed 143 studies on greenspace exposure finding statistically significant increases in a wide range of health benefits from healthy blood pressure to decreased cortisol rates.
  • Song, et al. 2019. Found that walking just 15 minutes through the woods can help relieve stress and anxiety.

Not just a walk iOutdoor Science Backed Benefitsn the woods

Being around trees seems to awaken something timeless within us, so it makes sense that forest bathing or “shinrin-yoku” is growing in popularity. Because a forest provides an abundance of stimulation, we may not be thinking about the potential benefits coming from what we can’t see. However, tasteless, smell-less molecules called phytoncides that we ingest during our walks may contribute to our health and wellbeing.(6)

Forests provide an abundance of these phytoncide compounds as plants emit them to defend against predators. Research suggests that inhalation of phytoncides for at least two hours promotes an increase in immune system activity. Other studies have found forest bathing increases relaxation by calming down the nervous system and reduces both heart rate and blood pressure.(7)

Greening the gut microbiota

There are other unseen benefits to being outside. As much as you’ve heard about the human microbiome, we aren’t the only ones who have one. Virtually all plants and most animals host varying degrees of a microbial community. For example, the soil “microbiome is highly diverse and comprises up to one quarter of Earth's diversity,” which is a pretty interesting way to look at something many of us take for granted. (6)

By going outside, we’re interacting with many different microbes, and this may help to support the homeostasis of our own. Wu, et al. (8) show how “increased amounts of residential greenness may support healthy gut microbiota by benignly altering their composition.” These findings suggest that increasing our time outside increases gut diversity, helping to support those hard-working organisms that produce metabolites “which are important for regulating glucose tolerance.” (8) Additionally, a healthy and diverse (human) microbiome is “essential to the innate immune system because it can provide a background level of immune activation” (8).

Because these bacteria only come from the soil, water, animal feces and spores in the air, they are not designed to live in our systems for long. Therefore we need repeated exposure to them to reap the benefits of these symbiotic relationships similar to the way we get benefits from eating fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut regularly.

Science-supported benefits

It might sound strange but science is showing how going outside is good for you in the way that eating some blueberries or taking a moment to meditate is. The mechanisms by which nature impacts the body are just different. Regardless of how you define “green space,” the science of nature shows how simply getting outside can provide wide-ranging benefits to overall health and wellness. What’s the next best step? Put away your computer and give yourself permission to go on a walk. You just may find that something you’ve been looking for.


*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Julie Larson

About Julie Larson

 Julie is a writer, researcher, and educator with an MFA in English who is passionate about poetry and  what helps the human body function optimally. Her goal is to empower others in their health journey by helping them make informed choices based on sound research. She believes optimizing the health of our bodies not only allows us to feel better mentally and physically, but also helps to fuel what we really want to accomplish.


  1. Franco, et al. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2017.
  2. Ohly, et al. Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments2016.
  3. Ewert, et al. Levels of Nature and Stress Response. Behavioral Sciences. 2018.