Wellness in the Yard: Health Benefits of Being Outside (at Home)

Family roasting marshmallows around an outdoor fire pit

Chances are you already suspect that being outside is good for you. Now, there’s proof—and lots of it.

Study after study links time in the outdoors to a huge range of physical and mental health benefits. 

Even better, the ways in which you can reap these benefits are diverse, from gardening, to bike riding, to bird watching. And you don’t have to be in the remote wilderness or a public park to experience these benefits—regularly being outdoors in your own backyard is an easy way to improve your physical and mental health.

Below, we’ll take a look at some of the specific ways in which a little dose of nature and the outdoors can improve your wellness.

Couple seated in chairs in backyard

Mental Wellness

Anxiety, stress, distraction, depression, isolation—the outdoors offers us immediate and effective tools to address such maladies and restore our mental health. 

Reduced stress

Simply being outside, whether moving around or simply looking at trees, reduces blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rates, cortisol and adrenaline levels, and overall stress. Recovery times from stressful experiences also improve when people spend more time in green spaces, and people experience mental restoration when exposed to birdsong.

Reduced anxiety and depression

Physical activity outside is a well-documented way to ease anxiety and depression, particularly when done on a regular basis, and when exposed to sunlight.

Research also shows consistent drops in anxiety and depression after simply spending time outside—we just feel better after a dose of the outdoors.

In urban areas, converting derelict lots to maintained green spaces produced a 41% drop in nearby residents’ feelings of depression (it also cut crime by 13%).

Family and dogs enjoying plunge pool in backyard

Increased happiness

Getting your hands dirty, even for a short period of time, essentially drugs you (thanks to the soil bacteria M. vaccae) by increasing serotonin production. In addition to making you feel happy, this also reduces depression and boosts your immune system.

Similarly, researchers linked fruit and vegetable gardening to upticks in dopamine, which produces feelings of bliss or mild euphoria. The theory here is that our hunter-gatherer brains reward us with happiness when we find and gather food.

Improved concentration and creativity

Turns out that taking a walk outside to clear your head actually works.

Studies show that time outdoors improves focus, attention span, concentration, and even creativity and problem-solving skills.

Improved self-esteem

WebMD reports that as little as five minutes of outdoor activity can improve your self-esteem, particularly if you are near water or green space. The impact of time outside on self-esteem is most pronounced after low-key activities like taking a stroll gardening. 

Couple sitting on porch while children run on front yard grass

Increased social interaction

Researchers note that outdoor spaces encourage social interaction and play a key role in reducing isolation and its detrimental effects on well-being. When the pandemic hit, homeowners began asking Yardzen for “social” or “functional” front yard designs—they wanted to be able to create an outdoor space where neighbors were implicitly invited to interact with them.

Studies also found that residents in urban areas that attended tree planting or other greening programs had more positive attitudes about their neighbors, encouraging stronger communities.

Better long-term mental health

Regular access to green space appears to help children avoid long-term psychiatric disorders, while outdoor exercise helps to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Family seated around outdoor fire pit while children play soccer nearby

Physical Wellness

Time outside correlates to a long list of physical health benefits. Whether you run, ramble, or relax, if you do it outside, it’s good for you.

Increased physical activity

Simply getting out and moving on a regular basis yields loads of health benefits, from reduced chances of cardiovascular disease and cancer to longer lifespans.

Man and woman playing bocce ball in their backyard

People are also more motivated to engage in physical activity in natural outdoor environments. 

Increased vitamin D

Sun exposure allows our bodies to produce more vitamin D, which supports our growth, bone development, and immune systems, among other health benefits. 

Woman reading a book on couch in her side yard

Improved breathing

Research links the presence of greenery in a neighborhood to a 34% lower likelihood of death from respiratory diseases than people with less greenery.

In general, regular exercise, as encouraged by being outdoors, leads to improved respiratory health.

Couple preparing meal outside near bbq

Improved sleep

Sleep is the wonderdrug of wellness, helping improve pretty much everything. Exposure to sunlight—especially early morning sunlight—leads to higher quality sleep, as does regular physical activity in the outdoors.

Reduced weight

The combination of better sleep and increased physical activity in the outdoors—again, especially in those early daylight hours—can help the body shed excess weight.

Increased immunity

Beyond the immunity-boosting effect of increased sleep and vitamin D, interaction with nature can strengthen our immune systems by exposing us to immunity-boosting compounds emitted by plants and stimulating T cell function.

As Covid taught us all, the outdoors also provides crucial social space where fresh air reduces the likelihood of disease transmission.

Faster healing

The Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku, or “forest bathing”, involves simply spending time in forested environments. Research into the practice links it to faster recovery from illness and trauma, and bolsters similar research linking exposure to nature with quicker healing rates.

Couple and young child seated in outdoor courtyard

Graceful aging

The aches, pains, sleeplessness, and mobility challenges that plague us as we enter our golden years were found to be diminished when people spent time outdoors

The link between being outside and wellness is exciting news for landscape designers. A thoughtful landscape design could already help people get more function and enjoyment from their yards; now it can also help them improve their personal well-being. Considering that the average Yardzen client spends 10 additional hours outside every week, that’s a whole lot of wellness!

Live Better Outside with a Yard Designed by Yardzen

The link between being outside and wellness is exciting news for landscape designers. A thoughtful landscape design could already help people get more function and enjoyment from their yards; now it can also help them improve their personal well-being. Considering that the average Yardzen client spends 10 additional hours outside every week, that’s a whole lot of wellness!

Looking to make improvements to your yard so you and your family can spend more time outside? Yardzen is here to help.

Yardzen’s award-winning online landscape and exterior design is tailored to homeowners in all fifty states in the US. Whether your goal is improving curb appeal, adding functional spaces, or giving the yard a full overhaul, we can create a design that meets your needs and style preferences.

Our design process begins with understanding your space, your aesthetic preferences, and a discussion of your budget and vision to minimize surprises when it comes time to build.

Our top-notch designers then develop a personalized vision for your yard, shared through 3D renderings, 2D plan drawings, and plant and material lists. Your design will capture the look, feel, and function you are hoping for, all while keeping costs within range.Once your design is complete, we’ll help you connect with a local contractor from our Pro Network of vetted professional landscapers to install your new design.

Get started today by finding the right design package for your space!

Start your outdoor renovation today.

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