April 4, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Let Nature Promote Healing

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean staying inside.

Doctors and physiologists continue to tell us how beneficial it is to go outside and exercise. Let these articles motivate us all to get stronger and healthier in natural settings. It might just help our immune systems prevent infectious diseases.

How to get the health benefits of nature when you’re stuck inside (New Scientist). Graham Lawton has some tips for getting regular doses of nature when the government says to “stay home” to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Staying stuck indoors can cause worry, depression and mental stress. If a natural setting is nearby, good,

But I appreciate that many city dwellers don’t have this luxury. The obvious solution is to do your permitted daily bout of exercise in as natural a setting as you can. Run, walk or cycle to your nearest bit of green and run, walk or cycle around it.

If you can’t even do that, Lawton says you can look at pictures. Yes, “surrogate nature” has been shown to increase a sense of well-being even for shut-ins.

So here is a tip for getting through this. If you don’t have easy access to the natural world, look at pictures of it; watch natural history programmes; listen to recordings of birdsong and other natural soundscapes on Spotify.*

Editor’s Tip: An app from CalmRadio.com offers a large variety of calm music playlists and nature sounds that you can layer together. You can also look at nature videos while listening, and cast it to your TV. There’s a free version with occasional ads, and a subscription version without ads. Subscriptions are currently 25% off.

Do you feel better now?  (Photos by DFC)

Benefits of exercise on metabolism: More profound than previously reported (European Society of Cardiology, via Medical Xpress). By measuring metabolites and blood flow, a team found dramatic results. If you have a sedentary job, see what you can do at periodic intervals to get up and move around, preferably with short walks outdoors.

“These results show that metabolic adaptation to exercise is far more profound than previously reported,” said senior author Dr. John F. O’Sullivan of the University of Sydney, Australia. “The results increase our knowledge of the widespread benefits of exercise on metabolism and reveal for the first time the true magnitude of these effects. This reinforces the mandate for exercise as a critical part of programmes to prevent cardiovascular disease.”

Editor’s Tip: A free phone app called Home Workouts provides exercise plans at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels you can do at home without any equipment. Schedule breaks from the desk or computer to include the routines from time to time. You can also use an exercise ball for a variety of exercises in addition to taking walks. Stretching straps can provide flexibility breaks. Dumbbells can be used in a variety of ways indoors.

Gardening helps to grow positive body image (Anglia Ruskin University). A researcher surveyed 84 gardeners in the London area to see if their work in the garden helped their satisfaction with their body. The correlation was strong, and the more they gardened, the better they felt.

Through a series of questionnaires, it found that the gardeners had significantly higher levels of body appreciation, significantly higher levels of body pride, and significantly higher levels of appreciation for their body’s functionality, compared to a group of 81 non-gardeners, recruited from the same area of London.

Regular exercise benefits immunity – even in isolation (University of Bath). There’s a myth going around that the time after vigorous exercise makes you vulnerable to infectious disease. A researcher set out to learn whether that was true or not. It isn’t. Exercise benefits the immune system – something important to know during a time of ‘lockdown’ because of the current pandemic.

Regular moderate intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, running or cycling is recommended, with the aim of achieving 150 minutes per week. Longer, more vigorous exercise would not be harmful, but if capacity to exercise is restricted due to a health condition or disability, the message is to ‘move more’ and that ‘something is better than nothing’. Resistance exercise has clear benefits for maintaining muscles, which also helps movement.

Infographic: Exercise’s Anticancer Mechanisms (The Scientist). This site has provided a graphic poster showing what happens in the body during exercise.

Researchers are beginning to understand that not only can exercise improve cancer patients’ overall wellbeing during treatment, but it may also fight the cancer itself. Experiments on cultured cells and in mice hint at some of the mechanisms that may be involved in these direct and indirect effects.

These and many other articles at CEH in the Health category show the benefits of exercise and exposure to nature. During the pandemic, it’s a good time to change habits for the better.

Our bodies were made for action. Even in their fallen state, they show exquisite design. We should be thankful as inhabitants of these ‘tabernacles’ and strive to maintain them the best we can. For triple benefit, use time outdoors to meditate on God’s Word.

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