If you’ve ever spent time out in nature, you might have noticed that you just felt better when you came back inside. Have you ever wondered why that is?

It turns out that being outdoors gives you multiple health benefits. Some of these probably are what you expected, but some will likely surprise you.

1 – You’re less likely to get sick in the first place. You might expect that if you’re outside, then you’re probably exposed to more bacteria, which is good for your immune system in the long run.

But being around plants also means exposure to phytoncides, which create something called ‘natural killer cells’ in your body. These cells are good for you because they go after things in your body that make you sick.

2 – You have fewer problems with allergies. By being exposed to pollen, dust, and other triggers, you build up immunity toward them.

3 – Being outside helps with certain conditions. Did you know that time spent in nature not only lowers your blood pressure but that it can reduce inflammation? Studies have shown that those students who spent class time outside had fewer vision problems as they grew older compared to those that stayed inside.

Most amazing of all, in Japan they’ve discovered that people who live in heavily forested areas and spend time outdoors had a significantly lower rate of cancer. Who knew?

4 – Being outside typically means you’re exercising. Even if you’re simply taking a walk in the woods, your body needs that exercise desperately. Exercise means you have better heart health and less chance of complications like diabetes and hypertension arising from obesity.

5 – Time spent in nature reduces stress. While this seems more like a mental health benefit (and it is!), it’s mentioned here because stress takes a huge physical toll on the body. People who are experiencing stress tend not to sleep well. Their autoimmune systems don’t work as well, and they tend toward issues with their heart. By removing that stress, you give your body that chance to ‘reset’ and relax.

6 – You’ll live longer. It has been proven time and again that people who spend time in nature have a mortality rate that’s significantly lower – up to 12% lower. This reduction is largely due to a decrease in illnesses like cancer, lung disease, or heart disease.

With so many health benefits of spending time outside in green spaces, doesn’t it just make sense to go back to nature? The good news is, the effects are lasting. So spending just a few hours once a week will have a strong positive impact on your life. With that in mind, it’s time to get outside!