11 Scientific Benefits of Being Outdoors

istock
istock

Being outdoors is fun, but even more importantly, it’s good for the brain, body, and soul. Here are some scientific reasons why you should get up close and personal with Mother Nature. 

1. BEING OUTDOORS BOOSTS YOUR ENERGY. 

Craving another cup of coffee? Maybe you should skip the caffeine and sit outside instead. One study suggests that spending 20 minutes in the open air gives your brain an energy boost comparable to one cup of joe. 

2. IT FEELS EASIER TO EXERCISE OUTDOORS. 

Does it seem noticeably easier to exercise outside? This might be thanks to your verdant surroundings. In one small study, researchers had cyclists pedal in front of green, grey, and red video footage. The bikers who exercised in front of the green reported feeling less physical exertion and more positive moods—meaning that grass, trees, and plants might add a psychological energy boost to your workout.

3. THE OUTDOORS IS GOOD FOR YOUR VISION. 

Research shows that elementary school students who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop nearsightedness. 

4. NATURAL SUNLIGHT HELPS MITIGATE PAIN. 

In one study, surgery patients who were exposed to high-intensity sunlight reported less stress and marginally less pain, and therefore took less pain medication.

5. THE OUTDOORS BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM. 

Scientists think that breathing in phytoncides—airborne chemicals produced by plants—increases our levels of white blood cells, helping us fight off infections and diseases.  

6. THE OUTDOORS PROVIDES YOU WITH FREE AROMATHERAPY. 

According to science, you really should stop and smell the flowers. Research shows that natural scents like roses, freshly cut grass, and pine make you feel calmer and more relaxed. 

7. THE OUTDOORS ENHANCES CREATIVITY. 

If you’re struggling with writer’s block, you might want to ditch your laptop for the great outdoors. Psychologists found that backpackers scored 50 percent higher on creativity tests after spending a few days in the wild sans electronics.

8. THE OUTDOORS HELPS WITH SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER.  

In the winter, shorter days and lower light levels can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD—a reoccurring condition that’s marked by symptoms of anxiety, exhaustion, and sadness. Doctors say spending time outside can lessen SAD’s severity—even if the weather’s cold or overcast.

9. BEING OUTDOORS GIVES YOU YOUR DAILY DOSE OF VITAMIN D.

Vitamin D is essential for a well-functioning body. It helps us absorb calcium, it prevents osteoporosis, and it reduces inflammation, among other things. Although vitamin D is present in some foods, like salmon and fortified milk, we get more than 90 percent of our vitamin D from casual exposure to sunlight.

10. THE OUTDOORS RESTORES YOUR FOCUS.

Can’t concentrate at work? Leave your office for a few minutes and go stroll in a nearby park. Studies show that walking in nature helps restore our focus.

11. THE OUTDOORS MAKES US BETTER PEOPLE.

According to psychologists, exposure to nature helps us shrug off societal pressures, allowing us to remember and value more important things like relationships, sharing, and community. 

Built for the endless weekend, experiencing the outdoors is easy with the all-new Tacoma. You’re just a drive away from less stress, more energy, and a much-needed dose of vitamin D. Learn more at toyota.com/tacoma. 

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

A Prehistoric Great White Shark Nursery Has Been Discovered in Chile

Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
solarseven/iStock via Getty Images

Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) may be one of the most formidable and frightening apex predators on the planet today, but life for them isn’t as easy as horror movies would suggest. Due to a slow growth rate and the fact that they produce few offspring, the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

There is a way these sharks ensure survival, and that is by creating nurseries—a designated place where great white shark babies (called pups) are protected from other predators. Now, researchers at the University of Vienna and colleagues have discovered these nurseries occurred in prehistoric times.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Jamie A. Villafaña from the university’s Institute of Palaeontology describes a fossilized nursery found in Coquimbo, Chile. Researchers were examining a collection of fossilized great white shark teeth between 5 and 2 million years old along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru when they noticed a disproportionate number of young shark teeth in Coquimbo. There was also a total lack of sexually mature animals' teeth, which suggests the site was used primarily by pups and juveniles as a nursery.

Though modern great whites are known to guard their young in designated areas, the researchers say this is the first example of a paleo-nursery. Because the climate was much warmer when the paleo-nursery was in use, the researchers think these protective environments can deepen our understanding of how great white sharks can survive global warming trends.