What is Nature-Deficit Disorder?

What are we talking about here? Wikipedia says Nature-Deficit Disorder refers to a hypothesis by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. This disorder is not recognized in any of the medical manuals for mental disorders.

I confess that on first blush this term sounded kind of tree-hugging and politically-correct to me. Don’t we have enough important things to concern us without worrying about being out in nature?

While this being nature deprived is usually applied to children, it doesn’t have to be. I am indebted to Kelly, The Spunky Caregiver, for introducing me to the concept in the first place.

Kelly mentioned it regarding care giving for seniors. She wrote, “Getting outside alleviates our stress and can literally change the mental state we are in. I have personally seen this in caring for seniors with moderate to advanced dementia. Having trees, gardens, horses and walking trails around, is like heaven after being inside. They begin to remember stories, smile more and connect. I have also seen it in rehab patients, how it inspires and elevates their optimism for recovery. For me personally, I need to get outside to feel alive in my body and the thought of being inside for days is painful. I love the sun and the trees and the air. Taking the seniors outside is a serious paid benefit!”

As a senior, I found myself considering how much riding my bike out on the Chicago Lakefront in nature is integral to my daily life. Bingo! Nature really is relevant to me. I see trees, water, ducks, geese, squirrels, leaves in fall, I smell the air, hear the birds, all of which are part of my enjoyment of the daily rides.

That snowballed into something I wrote back in the 2011 Great Chicago Blizzard “All tolled, I had an interesting experience. I walked about two miles up the avenue then back to my place. It was really very pleasant to be out in the air despite Jack Frost nipping at my nose. I think it was much healthier for my body and mind to walk outdoors than simply to grind it out on the treadmill. I found more of my senses engaged, sight, hearing, even smell. The health club would have been antiseptic by comparison. Pleasantly warm, but otherwise sterile.”

In December of last year I wrote How Good are Treadmills? In it researchers found that walking or running on treadmills requires less effort than moving at the same speed outdoors. “Researchers tracked how much energy 14 people ages 20 to 26 burned as they walked on a treadmill compared to walking outdoors, and found that choosing a 3 percent slope on the treadmill most accurately matched the energy requirements of walking on flat terrain outdoors.

“Rough or uneven terrain takes 10 percent more energy than plodding along on your smooth treadmill, according to the study’s head researcher, professor Luigi Fattorini.”

I would add that it also deprives you of the sights, sounds, smells, etc. out in nature.

So, I want to suggest that you consider including more nature in your own life. Maybe that walk outside will burn a few calories, relieve a little stress and keep you from plopping down on the couch and opening a bag of chips. Exercise is never a waist of time.


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Filed under aging, appreciation, biking, blood pressure, brain, calories, cardio exercise, cold weather, dementia, depression, Exercise, fat kids, healthy living, men's health, walking, Weight

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