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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Despite my terrible allergies, as the weather is getting warmer, one of my favorite things to do is spend as much time as possible outside. With final exams and the end of the semester approaching, stress levels are high among students so I recommend taking some extra time to reflect and be mindful of our environments and the beautiful nature around us. There are many health benefits to spending time in nature, so in honor of Earth Day and just because it’s good for you, I encourage you to get outside and take some extra time to appreciate our beautiful planet.

Everyone should take advantage of the various health benefits associated with increased time outdoors. For me personally, sometimes getting outside for just a few extra minutes a day is all I need to boost my motivation and finish the day strong. College is stressful enough as it is, but with the added burden of the pandemic and remote learning, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and face burnout.

This last year with all of my college classes being online, I’ve found myself cooped up inside and hunched over my laptop most days. Now that it’s spring and the weather is a lot warmer,  I’ve started making more of an effort to get outside. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is significantly reduced by increased time spent in green spaces. Being in nature also boosts endorphin levels and dopamine production, which promotes happiness. Even just going on a 20 minute walk makes me feel better when I need a break from school, work or any other responsibilities.

woman sitting in the forest writing
Photo by Doug Robichaud from Unsplash

Not only does being outdoors help improve mental health, but there are also plenty of advantages for your physical health as well. A lot of people seem to either underestimate or just do not know about the benefits of walking itself. Just walking for 30 to 60 minutes a day has been shown to improve memory, delay the start of Alzheimer’s disease for people at risk of developing it and slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.

You don’t need to have an intense workout routine to reap health benefits.  Research shows that exposure to nature and stress reduction are linked. Being around forests and trees helps boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve mood, increase energy level and improve sleep. I’ve had a lot of fun by myself exploring different parks in my area and looking for scenic routes to just walk on when I have the time.

Just like everyone else, I’ve found it hard to socialize safely with others during this pandemic. If you take the proper safety precautions when around other people, doing things outside together is a decent option. When you’re outside, there is more ventilation with the fresh air constantly moving, so you’re less likely to breathe in the respiratory droplets containing the COVID-19 virus.

Hopefully by now I’ve convinced you to make more of a conscious effort to get some fresh air every day. I myself am trying to incorporate spending extra time outside into my routine, so I encourage you to find fun ways to do the same.

Caroline is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University pursuing a degree in Information Systems. She enjoys reading, running and spending quality time with her dog.
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