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Feel Better - Bring Outside In

Health benefits of the virtual outdoors

By Dale AllmanPublished 3 years ago 10 min read
Feel Better - Bring Outside In
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash


Science finally catches up with what we knew by instinct. Having spent more time outdoors than in, I can testify to the benefits of being outside. My therapist recently pointed out that most of my photo albums that showed me smiling as I was growing up were taken outdoors. My inside face was usually solemn and subdued.

In nature or outside, you feel better, have more energy, burn more calories (ever wonder why you're hungrier when you're outdoors?), get sunshine (your body converts to Vitamin D), smile more and generally stay more focused. Within the past year scientific tests have demonstrated the benefits of being outdoors and confirm what we knew already.

People have limited access to green spaces with clean air in many parts of the world. Some people don't want to go outside, and others can't. Within the past year, there has also been mounting evidence that watching outdoor videos - nature, landscapes, wildlife - can be restorative. So if you don't want to go outside, or can't, a combination of VR (virtual reality) and outdoor videos can help.

We created the Video Health brand to provide resources anyone can use to get the benefits from nature and outdoors. Our services at Video Health give you access to the best VR headsets and the latest technology. We provide these so you can experience the outdoors in high-definition 3D.

Plus we have a starter set of top-quality outdoor videos. We also have access to the best camera equipment you can use with your smartphone. If you take videos yourself outdoors, you can re-watch them any time with the VR headset. Your family members and others can experience your outdoor stories with a VR headset either provided by you or purchased from our site.

Part of our mission supports distribution of and access to a virtual outdoor experience for those unable to get outside. For those who are home-bound, disabled or prefer to stay indoors, we can provide VR headsets and videos for viewing. Ideally, we'll be providing these services free of charge -- to hospitals, nursing homes and those in need. We encourage you to also provide the benefits of outdoors to those you know.

Get Outdoors if You Can

The health benefits of being outdoors have recently created quite a stir in the fitness community. Subjected to rigorous testing, there are between 5 and 12 benefits commonly discussed. These range from improved mood to more Vitamin D (from sunshine) to better brain function. A good summary was recently provided by Mental Floss (click on the link to see the full article) with 10 important benefits.

Science has confirmed or demonstrated the following benefits according to the article.

  1. Increased energy levels - sitting outdoors for 20 minutes gives your brain an energy boost comparable to one cup of coffee.
  2. Exercise feels easier outside - there is a demonstrated psychological impact from the green color of grass, trees and plants.
  3. Your vision improves - school-age children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop nearsightedness. (Author's note: Not in every case - I was one that was always outside, at every opportunity, but still developed nearsightedness at the age of 11.)
  4. Natural sunlight relieves pain - according to a recent study surgery patients who were exposed to high-intensity sunlight experienced less pain and took less pain medications.
  5. Your immune system gets a boost - apparently due to inhaling phytoncides—airborne chemicals produced by plants—which increases our levels of white blood cells fighting off infections and disease.
  6. Free aromatherapy is available outdoors - the old adage of "stop and smell the roses" is exactly what you should do.
  7. Gets your creativity fired up - backpackers tested higher for creative energy after spending a few days without all the electronics.
  8. Your daily dose of Vitamin D - the body converts sunshine into vitamin D and most of us get 90% of our vitamin D levels from casual exposure to sunlight.
  9. Stay focused - studies have shown that walks in nature increase our focus.
  10. Feel better about yourself - time outdoors helps us shrug off societal or personal pressures and reminds us what's important.

Now there is also evidence that shows your brain needs rest. Attention fatigue -- especially with the amount of screen time, distractions, multitasking behaviors, loud noises, bustling urban environments, poor sleep we all encounter every day -- can be a risk to your emotional and mental health. According to a recent study in Occupational Health Science, when attention fatigue becomes a problem you have trouble concentrating and your willpower takes a hit.

The time you spend outdoors can be restorative and give your brain a chance to relax and rejuvenate. Soft fascination has been used to describe the process of softly engaging the brain without creating a need for intense focus. In other words, when you are outdoors your brain relaxes and you get all the restorative benefits.

Why You Might Not Like Outdoors

A recent U.S. National Parks study found that just barely half of the US population goes outdoors for recreation or other reasons. And, a National Trust survey pointed out that children today spend less than half the time outdoors their parents did.

Not everyone in the world has access to natural environments. Even in the USA nearly two-thirds of the population live in cities. While some cities have green spaces and provide public-supported access to parks, lakes and other venues, many do not. The more densely populated cities such as New York or Los Angeles have limited resources to devote to safe green spaces where people can go outside.

Part of the science over the past year has also looked at specific reasons why some people don't like outdoors. Many participants in the studies noted concerns, preferences, or fears about going outside. Recently a study published in Frontiers in Psychology noted factors like "having to sit on the ground", "getting itchy from sweat and dust", and "finding a tick crawling up my leg".

And, most of us can think of other reasons to stay indoors. Potential skin reactions to sunshine (burns, skin cancers, etc.), fear of or disgust with insects, it's too hot, it's too cold, no time, and so on. The National Wildlife Federation noted these reasons and recently posted helpful hints for how to overcome these obstacles.

What If You Can't Go Outside

Also consider for a moment the segments of the population that might not be able to go outdoors. Many people across the USA and around the world have limited access to green spaces with clean air. In addition, as populations age there will be a larger segment that's home-bound or restricted from the ability to go outside. Are there ways to get the health benefits of outdoors without actually having to go outside?

Thanks to today's science, the answer is yes. Restorative use of virtual reality combined with outdoor videos can improve your mood, help you and your brain relax, and increase creativity.

Research published in Frontiers in Psychology demonstrates the potential benefits of this approach. The study was designed to rigorously test for a positive impact of watching outdoor videos with the latest VR technology.

Basically the idea was to expose people to nature with a VR headset and see how psycho-pysiological benefits manifest. Then compare the virtual reality results to benefits derived from actual exposure to the outdoors.

Figure 1.

In terms of the test design, some subjects were asked to sit outdoors (A), others were asked to sit in front of a blank wall (B) and a third group was asked to watch outdoor videos with a VR headset (C and D).

Figure 2:

The results of the study demonstrated that a fully immersive VR experience with outdoor videos rated as equally restorative. Both actual outdoor nature and virtual nature boosted positive psychological and physiological effects. Part of the reason for these similar outcomes was heightened engagement with beauty.

In addition the most recent study demonstrated a connection to Attention Restoration Theory. The VR experience apparently helped people feel like they were away from their everyday demands and stressors. Through visual access to nature, these feelings can interrupt demands on the brain and negative thought patterns by helping address attention fatigue.

What About the Animals?

A recent study from the BBC Earth and University of California Berkeley demonstrated the impact of watching wildlife videos on stress levels. This was a large study of 7,500 people across 4 continents, including the USA, UK, India, Australia, South Africa and Singapore. The study was designed in order to test the emotional response of people watching wildlife videos (Plant Earth II). Video clips ranged from 1 to 3 minutes -- somewhat shorter than other studies.

Positive emotional responses to Planet Earth II included:

  1. Awe, a sense of wonder
  2. Relaxed, peaceful
  3. Joy, enthusiasm
  4. Amusement, laughter

Equally important, viewing wildlife videos demonstrate reduced emotional "negatives" so that there were less of these:

  1. Stress, being overburdened
  2. Angry, irritable
  3. Tired, fatigued, low energy

Enhancing your viewing of outdoors and nature videos with wildlife can generate even more benefits and restorative power.

These statistical results are depicted graphically below. The point being that viewing wildlife videos creates more benefit or positive feelings.

What Should You Do

If you can go outdoors, the optimal timeframe for maximum benefit is at least 15 minutes at least 3 times per week. This recommendation gets you the most possible Vitamin D, as well as fresh air and many of the other benefits.

By comparison, if you or someone you know can't go outdoors on any given day, your health and mental state will improve if you watch outdoor landscape and wildlife videos for several minutes. The optimal time range we recommend is 5-8 minutes based on the latest research. And, if you are feeling especially stressed or suffering from brain fatigue, watching nature videos 2-3 times per day will be restorative.

You can capture your own videos when you are outdoors as well. Today's technology makes it easy. We can recommend several tools and add-ons you can use with any smartphone to record your trip(s) outside. Out list is below, and you can click on the links to see the product details.

Latest Technology for Taking Outdoor Videos

  1. Drone with 4K HD Camera
  2. Smartphone Steady Cam
  3. Cellphone Camera Lens Kit

You might also consider sharing your outdoor videos with people you know who can't go outside. Or, if you know someone who chooses not to spend time outside, offering to share your videos will help them as well.

How A Video Health Purchase Can Help

We've constructed the Video Health site to help you and those you know spend time with outdoor videos. A purchase gets you the latest VR headset. Our headsets are designed to be used with any smartphone. You can watch videos that are stored on your phone or in your phone's web browser. All of our headsets are the type recommended by the latest science for full restorative benefits.

Our site also give you access to top-quality outdoor videos. We've added landscape videos to start with and plan to add new videos every month. Our videographers are constantly updating the site with new videos so you can enjoy a variety of outdoor experiences.

Video Health tools and videos are designed for maximum attention recovery and restoration. Take the time out of your day to find some joy and rejuvenate. And, please support those you know who may not be able to go outdoors.

We donate a portion of revenues and profits to share the restorative experience of bringing the outside in. And we do those from 3 websites we own.


If you have or know anyone with special needs, use our contact form on the site. Our administrators will consider each request carefully, and if we are able, donate the equipment and membership access.

Now that science has caught up with what we instinctively knew about the great outdoors, we think it's time to share.


About the Creator

Dale Allman

Dale started writing and proofreading at a very young age, after school in his parents newspaper. Corporate career, numerous awards and recognition followed. Dale writes now to inform, uplift and entertain.

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