Everybody knows going outdoors is good for you. But few of us understand just how much nature can do for our health, both physical and mental. I’m not talking about herbal remedies and the like, but about spending time with nature.
Our lifestyles are becoming more and more sedentary, and it’s no secret that this has bad repercussions on our health. The media, relevant charities and government bodies all join it together to encourage us to exercise. But where you choose to exercise, a gym or your local green space, might have more importance than you think. Scientific studies have shown that people are more likely to keep exercising if they exercise outdoors. Exercising at home or in a gym, they are more likely to become demotivated and quit. Exercising outside, they are more likely to keep doing it!
photo: David Levenson (rspb-images.com)
This is only one of the positive effects of nature. Spending time outdoors not only has a positive effect on our bodies, but also on our minds. People suffering from mental health issues, such as depression or stress, can greatly benefit from spending time outdoors, whether it is exercising, gardening, walking, or even birdwatching! Here are a few figures from the mental health charity Mind:
Research even showed that hospital patients with a view on green spaces go back home earlier than those with a view on buildings.
Photo: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
So what can we learn from this? Obviously, we should spend more time outdoors. But this also gives us an extra reason to protect our wild places. The RSPB, with over 200 nature reserves in the UK isn’t only protecting wildlife, it is also protecting everyone’s well being. This is why the RSPB Lochwinnoch nature reserve, the RSPB Baron’s Haugh nature reserve and RSPB at Kelvingrove, have launched the “Just breathe” campaign. This campaign encourages people to visit those sites, not just for their wildlife, but for their health benefits. It’s cheap, it’s beautiful, it’s good for you. So what are you waiting for? Come along, get out, get active ... unwind!
Photo: Carolyn Merrett (rspb-images.com)
More info on the subject:
As most of you will know. the RSPB Lochwinnoch nature reserve is not only a haven for birds but for other wildlife too, including plants. To discover a bit more about the plants of Lochwinnoch we invited Keith Watson, curator of botany at the Kelvingrove museum, to host an event on the reserve. Our Wednesday with Widlife: Wildflower event took place on the evening of the 6th of June. It was a mild dry evening (we even had a bit of sunshine towards the end) and there was quite a good turn out.
The reserve is a good place to see a variety of plants, as there are several different habitats. Different plants will grow in different conditions so the woodlands, the area by the pond. The marshland, the dry grassland and the wetter grassland all host different plants. Keith Watson helped us discover a bit more about those, first by taking us onto the Aird Meadow.
Most lowland grasslands need human management to remain wildflower rich meadows. Allowed to grow without control, a few competitive plants will take over, and the meadow will be less diverse. If, however, the meadow is sustainably grazed, a variety of rarer plants, better adapted to survive grazing, will thrive. Left to themselves even longer, trees will start growing and the meadow will slowly turn into a forest. And even though we enjoy forests, it would be a shame to see those wildflower meadows disappear. In Lochwinnoch, we have been trying to get cattle to graze the Aird meadow, with no success. Instead, we cut the grass at a very short height every autumn. This is not only beneficial for plants but also for lapwings.
Keith pointed out a large variety of plants: clover, ladies mantel, bush vetch, yellow rattle, ragged robin, forget-me-not, wood cranesbill, sorrow, water aven,, tufted vetch, valerian, creeping buttercup, tall buttercup...
In the woodland, the star of the show was the bird’s nest orchid. A fairly rare orchid, the reserve is the only place Keith ever saw one in Renfrewshire. Small and yellowy brown, it is easy to miss and looks a bit like it is decaying, but it’s not! The reason it is brown is that it doesn't do photosynthesis. Most plants get energy from the sun (photosynthesis) using the green pigment chlorophyll to absorb light, and this why they're green. The bird's nest orchid gets its energy from decaying matter in the ground with the help of a fungus.