Get Connected To Nature - It May Save Your Life

October 12, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

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In a new article by Dan Buettner (National Geographic researcher of Blue Zones), Dan lays out some very compelling evidence that modern people need more physical activity than just going to the gym a few times a week and then heading back to their desk for 8+ hours per day, only to go home and lay on the couch and watch TV or play video games.  These modern lifestyles are literally killing us and causing chronic illnesses.   

You might be wondering why a nature photographer is writing about "Blue Zones" and the global health crisis.  Humor me for 5 minutes, and read this article.  It just might save your life or someone that you care about.  

"If you look at how humans have evolved over time they didn’t sit down at a desk or on their couch for eight hours and then hope to make it up for a half hour or 45 minutes in the gym. Blue Zones is an extension of how people have lived forever. They live in environments that nudge them into moving every 20 minutes or so. It’s a natural inclination because humans have worked too hard for most of the history of our species that now we have technology mechanized – combustion engines do a lot of work for us. The sad byproduct is the work our bodies were engineered to do no longer gets done; our bodies don’t get the regular low-intensity movement they need to thrive."

Based on national statistics, it is likely that two out of three people reading this article in America is overweight and placing themselves at significant risk of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, heart attacks, and more.  If you want to know if you are over weight, use the online BMI calculator supplied by the Centers for Disease Control.  Did you know that the CDC estimates that 100 million Americans have prediabetes and 70% don't even know it! Want some good news?  Read this article to get inspired to get outside and start making a positive investment in your health retirement account.  

HOW DOES NATURE COME INTO PLAY?

It is a scientific fact that our bodies need regular exercise to thrive, not just a few short sessions per week at the local gym and following the next fad diet for a few weeks.  

Did you know that your body has an internal pharmacy?  When we exercise, our bodies release nitric oxide, which in turn releases specialized medicine that we need to be lean and avoid chronic diseases.  I explain more in the sections below, so hang in there and keep going. 

Based on the obesity crisis in America, it is clear that the majority of people no longer know how to eat properly and people don't get enough physical activity.  A large majority of "food" in modern grocery stores aren't even food, so it is easy to understand how the health crisis has gotten to this stage.  The "requirement" for regular physical activity and exercise has been replaced with technology and modern conveniences.  

Our bodies were designed to move, serve us, and thrive when they are treated well.  Between the lack of quality fuel (eating real food as part of our lifestyle) and not getting enough physical activity, it is clear why there is a health crisis in America, and it is spreading globally too.  Read more to learn what you can do to improve your health and wellbeing. 

WHAT CAN I DO FOR BETTER HEALTH?

There are many ways to make the right kinds of investments to ensure you have better health and avoid the chronic diseases that are associated with poor eating habits and lack of physical activity.  One of the best ways that I believe anyone can start making better investments in themselves is to spend more time in nature.  Take frequent walks in your neighborhood, hike or find an outdoor activity that requires you to move more.  These suggestions aren't just my personal opinion; it is a scientific fact that with increased exercise, your body opens up its internal pharmacy for you.  Read on to learn more.   Once you have this part of your daily routine, get more educated about basic nutrition and start making better choices in your diet.  

As a nature photographer, I am outside every day.  In fact, I start my day with a hike at sunrise because it is good for my body, and it clears my mind.  I understand the quality of food that I put in my body every day now and over time, I have learned how to make informed choices when at the grocery store.  You can do all this too.  

An exciting field of research, called the neuroscience of nature, validates why movement is the best medicine for our bodies.

On your way to your nature walk or hike, suppose you stopped by your neighborhood neurologist and got wired with cameras (called functional MRIs) that peer inside your brain to reveal what’s going on in there as you are walking outside.

Here’s a list of some of the fascinating health effects neuroscientists have discovered from a simple walk in nature:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • More relaxed blood pressure
  • Increased happy hormones
  • Decreased stress hormones
  • Mellower moods
  • Stronger immune system
  • Fewer fearful thoughts

Neuroscientists dub the beauties of nature “visual valium.”  The insightful statement “It’s pleasing to the eyes” also applies to the brain since the eye is simply an extension of the brain.  

Imagine inside your body and brain you have command centers full of dials, which are turned up and down and set just right for your physical and mental well-being.  These dials are interconnected by chemical emails – hormones – that enable each system to talk to the other.  When you walk outside the eye-brain dial says to the heart dial: “Relax, you don’t need to beat so hard and fast.”  Then it says to the intestinal dials, “Gut feel good!” Movement helps every organ of the body work more efficiently.

Brisk movement causes blood to flow faster over the surface of the endothelium (blood vessels).  The endothelium is your body’s largest endocrine organ.  If you open all your blood vessels and spread them out flat, your endothelium would cover the surface area of several tennis courts.  Each cell of the endothelium is its own endocrine organ, filled with “microscopic medicine bottles” that release health-promoting substances into the bloodstream at just the right time, in the right amount, with no harmful side effects – and they’re free.  

The fast-moving blood creates an energy field called shear force, which releases a natural biochemical called nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide (NO) acts as a biochemical key to open your pharmacy and dispense the medicines you need.  The more you exercise, the more your endothelium gets used to the extra blood flow.

Please, get outside today and take a walk in nature. Find ways to incorporate walks and hikes into your normal routine as a positive investment for your future.  Invite a family member or friend and be a source of inspiration for them.  After you are moving on a regular basis, start learning more about nutrition and how to make better food choices.  I hope to inspire you to take action for your own health and then help others.  Without health, you have nothing.  

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-Tim Layton 

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Tim Layton
Darkroom & Large Format Photography
Video Workshops/eBooks/Guides: www.timlaytonfineart.com/workshops
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