Friday, August 21, 2015

Break Time!

We’ve been posting some heavy material in our last few blog entries—so this post encourages you to relax! With many of us about to start (or have started) a new school year or semester, and others working hard in other ventures, I'm excited to tell you about the studies revealing the benefits of taking a break, especially outside. 

On June 23 of this year, NPR’s Patti Neighmond posted an article, “Take a Hike to Do Your Heart and Spirit Good.” In this piece, Neighmond references an NPR study on adult exercise. The poll revealed that about 50% of adults say they do exercise regularly, with walking being the most common activity. Neighmond reveals, however, that many people think walking isn’t good enough exercise, so they may skip it.

Neighmond then reports on studies by Dr. Tim Church of Louisiana State University. These studies show that while walking might not help adults lose actual pounds, it does help reduce belly fat and keeps the body generally healthier.

What does that have to do with writing? Well, Church also found that regular walkers have    
  •     less anxiety
  •        less depression
  •        more energy
So for writers of serious, lengthy research, why not stop for a few minutes and take a walk to recharge--so to speak? And even if you are quite energetic already, there are more benefits of nature breaks...

In April 2014, Ellen Stuart from the Ernst & Young Leadership and Professional Development Center at NIU wrote a post called “Boost Your Brainpower!” for the LPDC Blog. Ellen reports that “spending time outside can actually boost your brainpower”; she references the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which finds that a “20 minute walk through ‘green space’… reduces ‘brain fatigue.’”

These ideas may be second nature (pun not entirely intended!) to most, but I think sometimes we need to be reminded and prompted to actually get outside!

Yet, as I was riding my bike on my favorite path recently, I began to wonder if even the smells around me had a positive influence—including that dank river smell. I did a quick Google search and found a piece that Bonnie Tsui wrote for The Atlantic City Lab entitled “The Smell of Nature Is Almost As Good As the Real Thing, As Far As Our Brains Are Concerned.”


Well, yes. Tsui provides good evidence for using aromatherapy during those times when you can’t get outside. Tsui refers to a study touting the benefits of walking outside done by Qing Li, an immunologist at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School. In this study, Li found that “walks in the woods boosted natural killer immune cells that helped fight infection and cancer,” and he, as I (patting myself on the back), “came to suspect that it was the natural scents of evergreens and other trees that did the bulk of the work." Some countries are now even promoting “forest therapy,” according to Tsui. Read Tsui’s piece to learn about Li’s findings on sniffing cypress scents and more. 

So while I might fire up the aromatherapy diffuser soon, right now, it’s beautiful outside. I’m going to take a walk and view and smell the real outdoors. I hope that you can too.

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