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Our immune system plays a vital role in defending our body against foreign invaders which may cause disease and illness. Those foreign invaders can be bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi, all with the potential to make us sick. Our immune system is our first line of defence. Hence, it is important to support our immune function to stay healthy.
As research has shown, being outdoors has several immune-boosting properties. Here are four ways how spending time in nature boosts immunity.
1 Being in the sun supports your immune system
Being outdoors helps you get the vitamin D you need because your body requires sunlight to produce it. Vitamin D is important for bone health, blood cells, and the immune system. Furthermore, it helps the body absorb more of certain minerals. Sunlight also energizes T cells (= soldiers of the immune system) which help fight infection. Last but not least, sunlight also helps keep your serotonin levels up, which raises your energy and enhances mood.
But how much sunlight do you need for these benefits? Getting around 5-15 minutes of exposure 2 or 3 times per week should be enough.
2 Being in nature reduces stress
Being outdoors and inhaling fresh air has been shown to reduce stress. When we walk in a forest or park our blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels (a stress hormone) decrease. This has a positive impact on our immune system since stress weakens the immune system and increases the likelihood of falling sick.
To reap the stress-reducing benefits of nature as little as ten to minutes per day in a natural setting could be enough to reduce stress and anxiety and improve wellbeing.
3 Walking in nature helps increase NK cells
When we walk in nature, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals produced by plants. These phytoncides enhance human natural killer cell (NK cells) activity, the NK cell count, and intracellular anti-cancer proteins. This helps our immune system fight off infections and diseases.
How often should you be walking in a forest? Research has shown that the benefits of a forest walk lasted for more than 30 days after the trip. Hence, going into the woods once a month is enough to maintain a higher level of NK cell activity.
4 Exposure to soil boosts the immune system
Nutrient-rich soil not only adds vitamins and minerals to our foods, but also helps boost our immune system. Research has shown that continuous exposure to harmless microorganisms in the environment, such as soil bacteria, trains our immune system to ignore benign molecules, such as pollen or other bacteria. Ultimately, this helps protect our body against allergies and other inflammatory diseases.
Other studies have shown that contact with germs in childhood help toughen the immune system and protect children from developing allergies and asthma. Furthermore, children who live on farms have about 50% reduction in asthma, allergies, and gut-related disorders compared to children who grow up in more sterile environments.
The easiest way to get in touch with soil? Start gardening – your health will thank you for it.
This blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The views and nutritional advice expressed are not intended for the purpose of providing medical advice. Please always consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any medical conditions. All content on this page has been thoroughly reviewed. Nevertheless, no liability can be accepted for the completeness and accuracy of the information.