10/9/2023 by Muse Abdi, M.B.B.S., B.BiomedSc, M.P.H., and Brian Lynch, M.D.
As the days grow shorter and the vibrant colors of autumn paint the world around us, it's the perfect opportunity to renew our connection with nature and prioritize our well-being. The fall season invites us to tap into nature's richest beauty for our physical and mental health. In this article, we'll delve into how you can fully embrace this season by immersing yourself in the great outdoors.
The warm and inviting colors of fall, along with its mild temperatures, beckon us outdoors. Here are some ways to harness nature's bounty for your overall health:
Hiking adventures: Select a nearby trail or nature reserve and embark on an attractive hike. The changing greenery provides a breathtaking backdrop, while the moderate temperatures make for a comfortable and invigorating trek.
Gardening therapy: Autumn presents an ideal opportunity for gardening. Planting bulbs and preparing your garden for the winter can be a therapeutic way to spend time outdoors. Gardening not only connects you with nature but also provides a chance to exercise simultaneously.
Forest bathing: Immerse yourself in a natural environment and engage your senses. This practice, known as forest bathing, has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, enhance mood and promote overall well-being. Reach out to Sara Holger, Whitewater State Park naturalist, to schedule forest bathing walks.
Seasonal delights: Make the most of fall activities like apple picking, pumpkin carving or simply taking a leisurely stroll in your local park. Engaging in these activities can foster joy and a deeper connection to the season.
Tips for embracing parks
Locate your local park: Discover the parks in your vicinity and plan regular visits. Keep things fresh by exploring new parks and trails. Here are some parks and resources to consider:
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Minnesota state parks and trails offer a wide range of outdoor opportunities throughout the region, including programs, hikes, fishing events and hands-on demonstrations. Check out the Minnesota State Parks' event calendar to find programs by park or activity.
- Olmsted County Parks: Explore the Dr. Paul E. Zollman Zoo, which houses over 30 species of native Minnesota animals, while Oxbow Park offers opportunities for hiking, fishing and camping. Picnic areas with covered shelters and playgrounds are also available.
- Chester Woods Park: Located in Southeastern Minnesota, this park features approximately 15 miles of primitive trails winding through diverse natural habitats. A mile-long hard-surfaced trail links the campground, boat launch, fishing pier and picnic areas.
- Rochester area: Quarry Hill Nature Center in Quarry Hill Park offers hands-on natural science education for all ages. The Nature Center boasts an indoor exploration hall with more than 30 species of native Minnesota animals and is open year-round.
Dress warmly: Ensure your comfort by dressing in layers to adapt to fluctuating temperatures.
Set goals: Whether it's a daily walk or weekly nature outings, establish achievable goals and consider prescribing time in parks and natural settings to improve your well-being. A Park Rx booklet is available upon request; contact Muse Abdi for delivery.
Disconnect from screens: Take a respite from screens and fully immerse yourself in the natural world. Leave your phone behind or switch it to silent mode to maximize your connection with nature.
Muse Abdi, M.B.B.S., B.BiomedSc, M.P.H., is a community health specialist and a strategist for the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) at Olmsted County Public Health Services. His responsibilities encompass various health promotion initiatives, including educating healthcare providers about the significance of prescribing time spent in nature and raising public awareness regarding the health advantages of the natural environment. Additionally, Muse Abdi serves as the facilitator for the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Coalition; holds the role of co-liaison and co-facilitator for the newly established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion project known as the Community Council; and is the leader of the SHIP Community Leadership Team Initiative within the Olmsted County Community Council.
Brian A. Lynch, M.D., is a primary care pediatrician at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest in Rochester. He co-chairs the Primary Care Work Group of the Mayo Clinic Obesity Council and chairs the Primary Care Obesity Task Force. Dr. Lynch works closely with the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Team to promote the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature with his patients and colleagues.