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Prescription for good health: Get out in the great outdoors

We live in a fast-paced world and are surrounded by modern conveniences like our cars, air conditioning and our always-on mobile devices that far too often keep us from smelling the roses, literally. 

Yet, it's impossible to escape the fact there's something incredibly soothing about being out in nature. Feeling the soil between our toes, listening to birds chirping in the morning, the sound of leaves rustling as the wind blows through the trees or taking a hike in secluded, woodsy area. Getting back to nature can feel like we're returning to our natural home.

So it shouldn't come as a shock that being outdoors can improve overall health and well-being. What might be surprising is that doctors now believe so strongly in the powers of being outdoors to help conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, Type II diabetes and others, that they are actually prescribing outdoor excursions for patients. The outdoors has a range of benefits that can improve health, such as reducing stress and feelings of anxiety and depression. Other benefits include improving eyesight, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, increasing Vitamin D, improving sleep and even reducing inflammation, which promotes faster healing and reduction of pain.

Perhaps not-so-ironically, the most popular screensavers for our computers are beautiful nature scenes. Unfortunately, that's the closest many of us get to the outdoors. We are often glued to technology and struggle to find time to venture outdoors even for short periods of time. This month, as we focus on the health benefits of being outside, here are a few ways to fill your prescription for the outdoors and get closer to nature:

  • Take a sunrise stroll: Sunrise during June is typically between 6 and 6:45 a.m. The feeling of the cooler morning air and transitioning to daylight can be a wonderful way to ring in a new day. Don’t worry about how many steps you take or how fast you go -- just enjoy the sights and smells of being outdoors at an early hour.
  • Go for a picnic: Locate a local park or lake or river area to explore. This is a fun way to spend quality time with a friend, loved one or your entire family. You can even consider it a “screen-free” event. Picnics can create fun memories and turn a routine activity like eating into a novel experience.
  • Go for a walk: Here's a great way to find some alone time while also having a little company along the way. Make the new ERS Walk & Talk podcast your new companion for a 20- to 30-minute walk. Listen to conversations about health and life with health experts and leaders that provide motivational messages to help keep us moving.
  • Learn more: Watch what the Texas State Parks have to offer through our webinar featuring State Park Director Rodney Franklin. Texas state parks offer endless opportunities to get out in nature for the day, or embark on a longer camping adventure.

Consider the small, simple things you can do to get outside more with your family -- from bike rides to strolls. The little things add up and can make a big impact in your daily life.