How Spending Time Outdoors May Impact Our Eating Habits

Getting outside is good for you. Even a 30-minute visit amongst some greenery once a week can positively impact both your mental state and physical body: it's been well-documented that when people get themselves into green spaces, they feel better (via Nature). Now if you think that staring at that tree painting hanging on your office wall has a similar effect, you're wrong; you'll need to physically step into nature, not just gaze out your window or glance at art. 

In research published by Frontiers in Psychology, scientists looked to see whether virtual reality videos of natural scenes might have the same positive impact as time spent outside. Though the test subjects benefitted from both real-life nature experiences and virtual reality scenarios, those who actually got themselves into nature reported elevated moods.

What if we told you that stepping outside could help you eat better, too? Start planning this weekend's outdoor picnic, stat.

It's time to step outside

Associate professor at Drexel University Dr. Brandy-Joe Milliron told Bicycling that several studies have shown benefits associated with time spent in nature: improved focus, lower heart rates, and decreased blood pressure. Some of these effects are even greater with outdoor exercise, Milliron explained, as outdoor-fitness enthusiasts exhibit other healthy behaviors, like eating fruits and vegetables and feeling stronger connections to nature. 

In one of Milliron's publications, 317 Philadelphians were observed and those who spent more time outside ate diets more diverse in fruits and vegetables than those who lacked connection with the outdoors. And it's not just adults: more than 6,000 kids from 12 different countries reported how much time they spent outside (per Journal of Public Health). Researchers analyzed their food habits, and — you guessed it — the more time a child spends outside, the healthier their diet is.

Pack today's lunch for the park. We'll be sitting in the grass.