Turning to Nature in a Time of Turmoil

A Blog Story About Nature in Our DuPage Forest Preserves

Turning to Nature in a Time of Turmoil

Posted by Forest Preserve District of DuPage County | 3/17/20 4:19 PM

Many of us are staying in our homes as the COVID-19 global pandemic has led to quarantines, closures and social distancing.

Even though DuPage Forest Preserve District visitor centers and restrooms are closed due to COVID-19, our preserves remain open and are a great way to improve your mood and reduce the stress of these tumultuous times. Take time to get outside while following CDC guidelines and recommendations by using social distancing to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Spending time outside — even five minutes — is good for you. DuPage forest preserves offer 26,000 acres and 145 miles of trails for you to explore.

“We strongly believe our open lands are more important now than ever,” said Forest Preserve District President Daniel Hebreard. “If you are feeling well and practicing the CDC prevention strategies, it is scientifically proven that immersing yourself in nature for just 5 minutes improves your mood and reduces stress. We have been preserving natural spaces for social distancing since 1915.”

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Healthier Body

With gyms shutting down to stop the spread of coronavirus, DuPage forest preserve trails offer the perfect alternative. An added benefit: You’ll burn 10 percent more calories if you run on a trail instead of a treadmill.

A study found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t.

The study is only the latest in a rapidly expanding area of research that finds nature has robust effects on people’s health — physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Doctors and PhDs looking at blood chemistry, brain activity and other physiological attributes have recorded how blood pressure, heart rate and levels of stress hormones all decrease more after a walk in the woods than one down a city street.


Sharper Mind

Spending one hour outdoors can also improve memory by 20 percent. Spend the hour outside walking and you’ll do even more for your mind.

Walking in general, whether on a track or treadmill, sets off a chain reaction of chemicals that shoot through your body thanks to an increase in heart rate. When they reach the brain, they boost imaginative thinking.

Walking on a trail seems to also trigger a subtle spike in innovation. Take a walk outside, and you might come up with a truly novel approach to a challenge that’s been bothering you.

Happier You

Sitting in a natural area for just five minutes can make you feel more energetic and less stressed or depressed. It’s a simple prescription that’s addictive in a good way. The better you feel, the more your brain will want you to get back out there again and again.

Nature’s efficacy increases if you’re near a lakeshore, wetland or babbling brook. Collaborative efforts by neuroscientists, psychologists and aquatic experts are showing that waterscapes have inherent positive effects on disposition.

The theory is that water’s placid surface and soothing sounds give the senses something simple to focus on, which lets the brain take a timeout. It may be a side effect of our longstanding relationship with water.

With 30 lakes, over 45 miles of rivers and streams, and scores of healthy marshes, it’s easy to get your fix. Of course being happy boosts your immune system, too, which also helps as we try to stave off COVID-19.

Related stories:
Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health
10 Nature Activities to Help Get Your Family through the Coronavirus Pandemic

A reminder: Before heading outside, review the fast-changing CDC, state or local recommendations. Keep in mind your family’s particular vulnerability to the virus, and the vulnerability of people around you, when deciding what nature activities are best for you and your loved ones. Stay healthy.


Topics: Insider, Trails, Natural resources, Health and wellness, Recreation, Take 5, Conservation, Nature

Written by Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County welcomes more than 6.2 million visitors a year; and manages nearly 26,000 acres in 60 forest preserves containing prairies, woodlands and wetlands.