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    Can the Outdoors Boost Your Immune System?

    Recent research has linked spending time in nature with increased immune function, stress relief and many other physical and emotional benefits.

    A series of studies conducted in the past few years have concluded that swapping an urban environment for a natural environment, even for just an hour, can boost a person’s immune system. In addition to relieving stress, scientists believe spending time around plants can benefit humans because of exposure to phytoncides. Plants emit phytoncides as airborne particles to protect themselves from harmful insects and rot.

    A 2010 study linked the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” – simply walking in nature for a few hours – to lower concentrations of cortisol, a slower pulse rate and reduced blood pressure. Other research has shown that being around plants increases a person’s number of white blood cells, sometimes as much as 50 percent and for as long as a week.

    Our partner in making the nature-health connection, Jefferson County Public Health, encourages spending time outdoors to experience the wealth of associated benefits. As for the recent findings, Jeffco Public Health believes more comprehensive research needs to be done before applying the new information in a practical manner. Defining “nature” can be difficult and examining nature-health relations is a logical follow-up to the boom of recent studies.

    If you want to test the theories for yourself, be sure to visit a Jeffco Open Space Park or register for a Native Plant Master Course through CSU Extension this spring.

    Jeffco Parks is comprised of Jeffco Open Space, the Fairgrounds, CSU Extension, Boettcher Mansion and Weed and Pest. Open Space, the largest division, was founded as a land conservation organization in 1972 and preserves natural and cultural resources, provides quality outdoor recreation experiences and promotes sound environmental stewardship. We are funded with a one-half cent sales tax that has protected over 52,000 acres and created 28 regional parks and 227 miles of trails in Jefferson County.

    Jefferson County Public Health is committed to promoting health, preserving the environment and preventing injury and disease for the residents of Jefferson County, Colorado. Please call 303-232-6301 or visit our web site at jeffco.us/public-health for more information.

    Thea Rock
    Communications Manager

    March 31, 2014

    Last Updated: 3-31-2014