Being Closer To Nature Can Make You Stronger!

  • 2 mins read
  • Movement
  • Motivation
  • Dr. Pramod Mane

Outdoor or indoor activities near plants can help you stay healthy as plants release phytoncides which have several health benefits, especially for the immune system.

Who doesn’t like to sit in a serene garden full of greenery, and experience our senses taking in the goodness of nature! To experience nature, all we need is to step and look around with open eyes. We all know that plants are advantageous to humans in a number of ways. Most importantly, they are rich sources of food and provide us with the oxygen we breathe every day. But did you know that plants can play a significant role in our immunity as well? This article will help us understand a little more about how nature and outdoor activities can influence our immunity and overall wellbeing. 

Importance of outdoor activities 

Being closer to nature has immense benefits for our physical and mental health. That is why we are constantly encouraged to include outdoor physical activities in our daily life. Breathing fresh air not only makes you active physically, but also positively impacts your mental health. Outdoor activities give you an opportunity to refresh your mind and get in shape. It may be in any form such as simply walking around in your garden, exercising outside, taking a walk in the park/beach, cycling, playing an outdoor sport, etc. 

Here are few benefits of outdoor activities that you could consider: 

  • You get to breathe cleaner air when you are exposed to outdoor environments surrounded by nature. 
  • You get your daily dose of natural vitamin D through sunlight. 
  • Your mind feels calm, peaceful and rejuvenated. 
  • You would not need any additional equipment for your physical activities. 
  • Your body becomes stronger to adapt to the changes of the environment (hiking, walking/climbing inclined and bumpy lands, movements following natural terrains etc.). 

What if you can’t go out? 

Bring the nature home! If it is not possible to go outdoors, make place for nature inside your home. Add potted plants to your home decor and let the corners of your house breathe! You can prefer ornamental plants, plants with different colour foliage, or with bright-coloured flowers to brighten your mood.  

An interesting effect of nature on the immune cells  

Studies have noted that plants can help to improve your immunity just by being with them. It would be interesting to understand how this actually happens. 

Plants contain natural compounds called phytoncides. These substances are released by plants and trees to protect themselves against bacteria, virus, fungi, and insects. Interestingly, phytoncides offer health benefits for humans as well. When we are around nature, we breathe in fresh air, and through this fresh air we are also taking in phytoncides. The effect phytoncides on the immune system is very interesting. On entering the body, phytoncides increase the number and action of a specific type of white blood cells known as natural killer cells (NK).  

The enhanced activity of natural killer cells by phytoncides helps to destroy the virus and tumour-infected cells in the human body. They exhibit anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties to protect the body against infections. There are thousands of phytoncides released by different kinds of plants.  

Some common plants and trees producing phytoncides are oak, pine, onion, tea tree and several others. Experts also observed that forest bathing, popularly known as “Shinrin-Yoku” in Japanese, is an excellent practice to achieve your dose of long lasting immunity. It simply means surrounding yourself with nature/trees/green spaces and soaking yourself in the natural atmosphere. It helps in relaxation of the mind and body, relieves stress and improves oxygen levels. Through these collective mechanisms, nature serves as a powerful source to boost your immunity in the most effective way. 

Therefore, going outside your house, doing outdoor exercises, breathing that fresh air, soaking in that vitamin D and spending few minutes around these green spaces are remarkable practices to boost your immunity. In addition, you get to see colourful birds flying to and fro from their nest for food, and hear them chirping, these activities tend to have a calming effect on the brain, and have been proved to act as immune-boosters.  

Start today, move into the lap of nature and get your dose of immune-boosting phytoncides provided free of cost by the lovely nature! 

Sources: 

  1.  Li Q, Kobayashi M, Wakayama Y et al. Effect of Phytoncide from Trees on Human Natural Killer Cell Function. 2009; Int J Immunopathology and Pharmacology; Vol 22-no.4; 951-959 

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/039463200902200410 

  1. Tsunetsugu Y, Park B, Miyazaki Y. Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku” (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan. 2010; Environmental health and preventive medicine; 15(1):27-37. 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19585091/ 

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