ISLAMABAD : A breath of fresh air is not just good for our health, it can also help us feel confident about how we look.
Scientists have found people who spend more time outside have a more positive body image and higher self-esteem.
The findings could mean people who suffer from insecurities about their figures or even those with eating disorders could be helped by spending more time outdoors.
Studies have previously shown that people who lived near green spaces have higher life satisfaction and less mental distress than those who did not.
Experiencing natural environments can help boost the feeling of being an important part of a wider ecosystem, the researchers suggest
But this latest research has found a link between spending time outdoors and people’s perception of their bodies, as well as their likelihood to bow to social pressure over their looks.
The study of 199 women and 200 men aged between 19 and 76 from the US, was led by Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.
He said that experiencing natural environments could help boost the feeling of being an important part of a wider ecosystem, meaning people felt more respect for their bodies.
It could also help people feel further removed from pressures of society and lessen the need to conform to stereotypes, such as being thin or muscular.
For the research, participants in an online survey were given a range of statements about their body image and asked to score how strongly they agreed on a five-point scale.
Questions included: ‘I respect my body’, ‘When I see good-looking people, I wonder about how my own looks measure up’, ‘I often check my appearance in a mirror just to make sure I look okay’ and ‘I feel pressure from family members to look thinner’.
They were also asked a series of questions about how exposed they were to nature in their everyday life and how connected they felt to the natural environment.
Spending more time outside could also help people feel further removed from pressures of society and lessen the need to conform to stereotypes, Professor Viren Swami said
Researchers found clear links between exposure to nature and how much participants appreciated their bodies.
Professor Swami said: ‘Spending time in a natural environment may help us develop a sense of ownership over our physical selves, give us a greater respect for our bodies, and a better understanding of what our bodies can do rather than what our bodies look like.
‘In turn, this may promote a sense of physical empowerment that is characteristic of body appreciation.’
He added: ‘Spending time in nature also seems to promote better self-esteem and feelings of connection to nature. When we feel part of a larger ecosystem requiring protection, we may be more likely to take steps to protect our bodies from harmful effects.’
He cautioned that the research should be interpreted carefully, as it could be that people who felt more confident about their bodies were more likely to seek out natural environments.
But he said if further research confirmed the findings, people who had negative body image issues could be treated with therapies such as hiking or camping.
Previously, researchers have found that being closer to nature has a calming effect which helps people sleep better.
Other studies revealed that living in a tree-lined street can make someone feel around seven years younger, while those in leafy areas tend to be thinner and have fewer heart problems.