Benefits of spending time in nature.

My father had a lot of faults, but one thing he did do was get me out into nature on a regular basis. I was backpacking at age 2 (riding along in a pack of course), and we would go camping and backpacking on a regular basis. When I went off to a boarding school at age 15, we took six weeks driving from California to Colorado, stopping at numerous national parks and other wilderness areas. We spent a week backpacking in Glacier National Park, a number of days in Yellowstone National Park, and another week in the Wind River range in Wyoming, to name a few of the places I recall. It wasn’t painless to travel with him, but I deeply appreciate that we did those trips that I still remember fondly. Even the time that we climbed Fremont Peak in the Wind River Range and he decided that he saw a better route (you know that never ends well). Instead, I am not actually sure we made the peak, but I recall being so dehydrated that I was licking moisture from the rocks late in the day.

This early start in nature led me to numerous back country trips throughout my high school and college years as both leader and participant. Backpacking, mountain climbing, back country skiing, and canoeing became quite commonplace. It was a little more difficult during college in Indiana, but I found a way, and I surrounded myself with people who did the same things.

With this background, I know that nature is powerful for me on a personal level. I have veered from long back country trips as an adult, but when I get back to the woods with a pack on my back, I remember that I need to do more of it. It does something to me that is inexplicably wonderful.

It turns out that it isn’t just good for me. Studies have shown that getting outside in nature, even for a short time, has measurable health benefits.

A study in Japan tested people after a leisurely forest walk and after a walk in an urban setting. They found that compared to the urban walkers, the forest group had an average 12% reduction in cortisol levels (a stress hormone), a 7% reduction in sympathetic nerve activity (another stress marker), a 1.4% drop in blood pressure, a 6% drop in heart rate, and subjective reports of increased mood and lower anxiety. The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. Another study discussed in this same book found that 30 to 40 minutes walking in nature appeared sufficient to bring about physiological mood changes. They recommended at least 5 hours per month spent in nature. (Read this article for a description of The Nature Fix and some of its other takeaways).

Even without time to get to the woods, green spaces have been found to have a positive effect on people’s perceived perception of health. I suspect this is heightened by spending more time in the green spaces surrounding you, if available.

How often are you getting outside? We all have different access, but can make an effort to spend more time outdoors and in nature. Perhaps that’s a walk in a park at lunch, or hiking on the weekends. Maybe it’s standing in a garden in your community or at home.

Know that getting outside more has great benefits to your health. Feel you don’t have enough time? You may find that the time spent outside boosts productivity making it worth your time, or it may calm you making you a better person to be around.

As a group of researchers put it after spending time together in nature and studying its effects: “After days of wandering in [nature], resting the executive branch and watching the clouds drift across an endless sky, good shit happens to your brain.” The Nature Fix by Florence Williams.


Don’t abandon healthy forms of movement while traveling : A few simple tips.

Travel can cause a ruckus to any exercise routine. Here are some simple tips to keep you moving when away from home.

If you have a fitness routine at home, it can be difficult to keep it up when traveling, whether for work or pleasure. [If you do NOT have a home workout routine, these tips will still help, and also make sure to check out the final paragraph where I link up to my free guide to boost productivity through movement].

Whether you enjoy the break from your routine on vacation, or dislike the feeling of not exercising, continuing to incorporate movement of any kind into your travels can be easy, add fun adventure, and add to your overall feeling of well-being. Obviously there are endless factors that will impact what you can and cannot do based on where you are, but here are a few tips to think about the next time you are away.

  1. Walk. When on vacation, you likely have more time in your days and can walk more. That may be built into your trip (walking city’s to visit museums for example), but if not, can you make an effort to walk a little further between destinations? Can you get up a little early than others in your group, or even with others, to go for a walk before the rest of your day begins? Even on a work trip perhaps you also have more time without the same demands as you have at home, can you use a little time at the beginning or end of the day to walk more and see the place where you are visiting? Getting out in the early morning as a town begins to wake up can be a great way to explore a new area and see things you might not otherwise. For an added bonus, when walking, vary your pace a bit. Use landmarks to go faster and get your heart rate up for a bit, and then go back to a more moderate pace to the next chosen landmark (alternating approximately every 1 to 3 minutes). This increase/decrease has added benefits to your fitness than a constant pace, even if it’s constant at a higher pace.
  2. Ride. Can you incorporate sightseeing by bike into a trip? I know someone who’s employer allowed them to rent a bike instead of a car on a work trip, and many cities now have bike rentals that you pick up on one street and drop off at another.
  3. Fitness centers. Then of course is the hotel fitness center if you are at a hotel. Some are much better than others, but most every place has something you could use. Even just getting in there for 10 minutes before you start your day can give a good heart rate boost that will have you feeling better, and you will likely be happy that you made the effort. These often have at least a treadmill, elliptical machine, and a stationary bike. But they will also have weights. If you travel a lot, it would be worthwhile to develop a routine that is either entirely body weight that you could do in any room where you are staying, or mostly body weight that you could utilize the fitness centers for. There are many routines you can find online. My current favorite resource for ideas is Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription.
  4. Anything else. Movement is great, whatever type and form it is. Whatever the form of movement, count it, rather than feeling ‘bad’ if you are not following your typical workout routine at home. Life requires flexibility, and you will be more likely to return to your home workout routine if you do not move at all on vacation and then feel badly about it. Do what you can, have compassion with yourself if doing what you can is lacking from what you think you should be doing, and then return to your routine when you return home.

Don’t have a home workout routine? I recently published my free guide titled Let’s Get Moving: A Simple Guide to Boost Productivity Through Movement. It is a guide specifically for busy attorneys who have not found the time to fit any movement into their days because of the demands of work and family. I will show you why it is important, how it can be done simply and quickly, and how that effort will ultimately boost your overall productivity. Download your free copy (and sign up for my free monthly newsletter) here.

5 Tips for a Happier & Healthier Vacation

Vacations are supposed to be about relaxing and/or adventuring and exploring new areas. But, while I just love vacation time, getting out of my food and exercise routines can be stressful for me. I am constantly experimenting with ways to enjoy time away from home and the 9-5 job routine while still feeling good about my overall health and what I am putting into my body.

We were just fortunate enough to get a spring break trip. My husband and I do not have kids, and neither of us are tied to a school schedule, but my in-laws are professors and we met them in Hawaii for a wonderful week over their spring break. Since it is the time of year that many sneak away, here are my top 5 tips to enjoy vacation while maintaining control of my health. Let me know if something resonates with you, and what you try to make your next trip a little bit happier and healthier along with what other tips you have!

1. Bring Healthy Snacks 

This will take shape differently for different people. At the least, bring emergency snacks if you cannot find anything healthy in airports or on your trip. But you can also pack all your food for at least travel day. I was recently gifted a travel cooler that fits on a roller bag. I am in love with it! It has been a total game changer, allowing me to bring meals instead of just snacks (and it has helped me bring Alaskan seafood to to family down south!) This is what I was gifted. I am sure there are others on the market, but since it was a gift I didn’t have to do my own research. Fortunately, ice packs are allowed through security if still frozen, and I can pack vegetables, fruit, my homemade muffins or cookies if I have them on hand, and sometimes a salad or leftover food for a meal in transit. I personally do not like spending money on food in airports, so for me this reduces both food and money stress.

I realize that many people will not want to devote 1 of 2 carry on bags to food! But here are some ideas for shelf-stable items to throw in your bag for your next trip:

  • Raw nuts or trail mix
  • Jerky (avoiding extra sugars. There are now some good grass fed beef items on the market).
  • Bars such as KIND or Lara that have few and good ingredients without a ton of added sugar
  • Vegetables – many can handle a day in your bag such as carrots, snap peas, and celery sticks
  • Fruit that you can keep from being crushed
  • Nut butter packets (or a jar in checked luggage)
  • Nuun drink tablets – I love these for hot climates when I really need electrolytes midday but do not want to drink the high sugar options in super markets
  • Coffee packets
  • Tea bags – Tea is great for so many reasons. It is great at helping me avoid other snack foods when I just want something in my mouth, I can sip on a nice tea rather than getting crappy food. It also helps me stay hydrated, and can help stave off colds that are commonly transported in travel. At $3 or more for a purchased tea, many cups on a layover will really add up, but coffee shops are happy to fill my mug with hot water for my sipping pleasure when I travel prepared.

2. Plan Your Treats

Hopefully you will have some awesome meals on your vacation. It’s a great opportunity to try new foods and enjoy some great treats. But if you plan those treats ahead, you take control over what they will be. Without some pre-planning, I know that I can end up overindulging and feeling horrible at the end of the vacation. This planning will be different for every individual because we have different comfort levels with treats and guilt, and of course different desires in the treat department. For example, this last trip I was able to eat well for most meals, but then enjoyed local rum with pineapple juice in the evening–intentionally and without guilt.

3. Move

My favorite vacations focus on movement (hiking/backpacking, skiing, and diving). But I don’t get to do those all the time. And I am never able to do the same type of training or exercise that I am doing at home. So, I focus on whatever movement I can; and I think that for overall health, it is movement that is the most important. Vacation can be a time, out of the office, to walk around much of the day – leisurely enjoying yourself, while giving your body a great benefit. I usually run or walk in the morning before others are up (unless I know I will be moving all day), but also make sure it is okay mentally if some days I cannot move as much. Try walking 30 minutes each morning on your next vacation (if in an area where it is safe to do so) and see how you feel both physically and mentally!

4. Cook for Yourself

Here again, I am fairly extreme and prefer to cook for myself even on vacation with just the occasional meal out. It’s cheaper and healthier for us, and we can still incorporate local foods. This past trip we stayed in condos with well stocked kitchens and brought my cooler with lunch each day – salad or vegetables and hummus for me and sandwiches for my traveling companions, along with cold drinks and other snacks. And I was able to start each day with a huge green smoothie, which was an awesome way to get going. I was in heaven. But even with fewer amenities, you can prepare some meals on your own that can at least be lighter than typical restaurant fare. For example, overnight oats or chia seed pudding make for a simple and quick hotel breakfast if you have a refrigerator, or a salad bar or bagged salad from a grocery store make a nice lighter lunch or dinner.

5. Practice Intentional Self-Care

This goes back to being intentional about what YOU need. In our culture of obligers, many people feel selfish about putting their needs and self-care as a priority, but it is actually a gift to those around you. When your needs are met, you are more present and able to give more to others. I have just recently discovered the power of being intentional about my own self needs. On a recent trip I decided beforehand that I would walk two hours a day. I split it up throughout the days which were spent visiting different family members and doing chores. But if I hadn’t set that goal ahead of time, I would have felt too guilty to get out and just walk by myself mid-day. Once it was my goal, I flipped that and would have felt guilty if I didn’t get my walking in. By going out and walking to take care of myself, others were not negatively affected. Quite the opposite; my time spent with family that trip was more valuable because I was more present with them, having my own needs met. For you that might not mean walking, and it will probably be different for different trips and different demands (on that trip for me, the walking was great mentally and physically, many other trips I don’t have that kind of time and my self-care might be a 30 minute high intensity workout first thing in the morning; but this can also mean that you take 30 minutes each morning to read or meditate or something else that will help you in your day but that might not involve your traveling partners). Think ahead and pick at least one thing you will do each day just for you!


Bottom line – enjoy yourself and keep in mind that reducing stress and sleeping more is so good for your body and mind, and may just allow your body to let go of some stored fat regardless of activity level or a less healthy meal.

Let me know if you try any of these tips and how they work for you, and share your own healthy travel tips!