If you need a body image boost, go outdoors.
Whether you're in green space, a blue space near a river or the ocean or even a snowy environment, it can make a difference.
“A body of evidence now exists showing that nature exposure — living close to, frequenting or engaging with environments such as forests and parks — is associated with a range of physical and psychological well-being benefits,” said study author Dr. Kamila Czepczor-Bernat, an assistant professor at the Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland.
“However, in contrast to previous studies which have focused on the impact of blue and green natural environments on body image outcomes, ours is the first to show the positive impact on body appreciation from spending time in snow-covered environments,” Czepczor-Bernat explained.
Last winter, researchers from the Medical University of Silesia and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the United Kingdom studied 87 women who walked in a snowy woodland in the Silesia region of Poland in small groups.
The women, with an average age of 24, completed a measure of their body appreciation before and after their walk. They also completed measures of connectedness to nature and self-compassion before the walk.
Spending this short time (about 40 minutes) in nature resulted in greater body appreciation, the researchers said. The women who had high scores in self-compassion had a greater improvement in body appreciation.
This study also demonstrated that the benefits of spending time in nature can be achieved in small groups and not just individually.
“Natural environments help to restrict negative appearance-related thoughts and shift attention away from an aesthetic view of the body and toward greater appreciation of the body's functionality. Positive body image is important not only in its own right, but has other beneficial effects, including more positive psychological well-being,” said senior study author Viren Swami, a professor of social psychology at ARU.
“Our findings demonstrate the importance of ensuring that everyone can access restorative natural environments, which may be a cost-effective way of promoting healthier body image, and highlight that there are significant benefits of being outside in nature, whatever the weather,” Swami said in an ARU news release.
The findings were published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The U.S. Forest Service has more on the benefits of being outside.
SOURCE: Anglia Ruskin University, news release, Nov. 29, 2022