THE INTRODUCTORY SENTENCES of Michael Easter’s article for menshealth.com, “The 20-5-3 Rule Prescribes How Much Time To Spend Outdoors”, might stop some readers in their tracks or cause them to turn and run for cover. Experiencing extreme nature is not my thing and I nearly clicked off the site immediately. I had pictured an Rx that might call for walks along the beach or snowshoe sessions In the nearby state park, not excursions to the wilds of Alaska facing wild caribou.
However, by the time I reached the fifth paragraph I was convinced this piece had useful information. Easter consulted a neuroscientist who provided her expert opinion on how to understand the human need and requirement for time in the natural world. Dr. Rachel Hopman used the concept of a “nature pyramid”, likening it to the food pyramid, to help conceptualize how much time of each level of natural world exposure is best for our health.
Easter details her three prescribed time segments: 20 minutes for 3 times per week in outdoor nature setting like a city park; 5 hours a month in a semi-wild environment like a state park; and 3 days per year in the wilderness. The wilder the better the PhD expert recommended, with phones turned off in each setting to avoid negating the affects of such sessions.
The article introduced new perspectives about nature’s benefits to those who enter wild spaces without the distractions of technology. To learn about the state of “soft fascination” that humans enter and our engulfment in “fractals” in the outdoors check out the full story!
[Hopman’s explanation of fractals, design patterns of “organized chaos” that can be seen in the way trees branch, clouds form, and mountain ranges are scaled, jogged a childhood memory. I recalled viewing the outdoors through prescription eyeglasses for the very first time. In the 4th grade, I could suddenly make out individual leaves on trees, rather than see them as uniform areas of greenery on the tops of brown tree trunks. To this day I remember the joy of this experience. Since then, until this day, as soon as single tree leaf outlines begin to blur, I know it is time for a lens change and a visit to the ophthalmalogist.]
What if the prescribed times and experiences are beyond practical reach? Remember that researchers attempt to find differences between control and study populations. The cut-off times that might be expected to result in benefits versus no benefits from wild nature setting experiences are their best guesses based on the data collected. It's possible that less time will still boost our health and wellbeing.
My take is that now, when outdoors, I should attempt to maximize each experience, being careful to see the design patterns, hear the sounds, and breathe in the scents of the surrounding natural elements; and feel the weather too at those times. To try immersing my senses in all that the outdoor “wilderness” is delivering at the moment.
Perhaps a heightened, conscious enjoyment of nature during outdoor sessions will fully nurture mind, body, and spirit, even if the number of minutes, hours, and days falls short of the current recommended prescription.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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