Professionals say going outdoors can help mental health during pandemic

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – With the pandemic in full swing and fewer choices for fun, being outside has become a major source of entertainment. But more importantly, professionals say it makes a huge difference for mental health.

2 NEWS spoke with Associate Director at Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, Jodi Long. She said getting out in the sun can drastically help alleviate stress and anxiety during this pandemic, especially now that other options are limited. 

“When we moved into the pandemic, it was in the spring, and it was still cold out. So by social distancing, many of us just stayed in our homes, and that’s not great for our mental health. Sunshine, and outdoors and fresh air are good not only for out mental health, but our physical health.” 

Long said simply stepping out into the sun helps, but paired with other activities, the physical and mental health perks are plentiful.  

“Just taking a 10 or 15 minute walk has a tremendous amount of benefits to our body, first just physically. It’s great for us and getting fresh air. But secondly exercise releases chemicals in our brain that help our mental health. That combined with exposure to sun, and even if it’s sunshine behind a cloudy day, sun produces vitamin in D in our bodies, and that is known as the sunshine vitamin. It improves our mental state.”

Director of Marketing and Public Engagement for Five Rivers MetroParks, Shelli DiFranco, said now, getting outside doesn’t have to feel like a chore. A lot of parks are close by and cost nothing to use. DiFranco added, they’re just asking visitors to wear masks and to practice social distancing when they’re using the parks. 

“Whether you’re on a trail that’s a little bit crowded or you may be at the start of a bike path, it’s a good idea to toss that mask on to just help keep you and your family safe.”

If you need another incentive to head outside, the MetroParks now has an app that can be used to find fun things to do at each outdoor space. 

DiFranco said, “You can use it without a cell phone signal which is really helpful for some of those parks that are a little bit more off the grid, and it can help you find trails or paths or points of interest that you may not have known before.” 

“Being outside is absolutely key to helping people as we move into this pandemic that lasts more than just a month, but probably a couple of months or a year long. And so intentionally finding time to be outdoors and just being present in the sunshine, being present in the shade, just being present outside to fresh air will absolutely help all of us.”

To learn more about the Five Rivers MetroParks app, and to find some fun things to do outdoors, click here.

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