37884325 - woman middle aged meditating in a forest sitting on a grassOnce again, science has backed up what most people who cherish the outdoors already knew — getting out on the fields and streams is some of the best kind of medicine! Studies suggest that being out in nature can have real benefits for your well-being that go right to the core of who we are as people.

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Some of the upsides to the outdoors lifestyle are obvious. After all, you can feel the burn after walking a long hunt through the hills or hauling back a deboned deer. But other parts are far more subtle than that. Just getting out in the sun provides as much as 90 percent of your vitamin D levels, which play a vital role in fighting off disease and keeping your bones and teeth healthy. Other elements still are engrained even deeper than that. Studies show that something as simple as a walk in the woods can relieve stress and lift your mood. In Japan, the therapeutic side of soaking in nature has inspired a very literal term — shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing.” People in Japan give so much credit to forest bathing that they officially incorporated the practice into their national health system. We obviously haven’t gone that far in the U.S., but public health observers have noted that just living near and being around trees is at least correlated with people feeling healthier and showing fewer signs of illness. The outdoors as a whole can have a powerful impact, but hunting specifically might have an effect of its own. Some programs have incorporated hunting as a valuable tool for bringing our military veterans all the way home, providing them with a familiar outlet as they cope with physical disabilities or psychological symptoms like PTSD.

Outdoorsmen and women have long known the gifts that our activities bring. But now, we have a clearer picture for why we feel such well-being even when we come back home with an empty bag!

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