If there was any positive to be taken from lockdown, perhaps it was the introspection such a time afforded. With plans of travel shelved and the calendar empty, we turned our attention inwards, taking a discerning eye to the jobs we have, the lifestyle we are living, and the things that matter most. For many, this period saw them emerge with a newfound desire to embrace a healthier lifestyle, one that afforded time outdoors and weekends spent in the countryside, away from the city that seemed to pulse like a heartbeat, always on. But as the vaccine rollout continues across Australia and restrictions - for the most part - have eased, more and more of us are returning to those things we so ardently swore we’d be better off without. The result is a return of FOMO and heightened stress and not surprisingly, scientists suggest we need to get back to nature to boost our health.
As we return to the lives we once knew pre-pandemic, it seems our health once again takes a back seat. Lockdown seemed to offer a shift in focus, a chance to make our health a priority as we sought to embrace a slower pace of life. Now, the return to the office seems to signal a shift in stress levels, with some noting that back-to-work weight gain has immediately followed. Studies have shown that urban noise pollution has adverse health outcomes. According to a study in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, higher 24-hour noise levels are associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms, with another paper showing a correlation between daytime clamour and poor heart health.
Recently, a study conducted by the University of Oxford found a significant relation between traffic noise and waist circumference. It found that for ever extra 10dB of sound, participants in the study had a 2 per cent increased risk of obesity, even when accounting for diet and exercise. It’s led scientists to suggest that stress is a significant factor when it comes to health, with chronically high cortisol being linked to enzymes that instruct your fat cells to grow.
If you feel your stress increasing already, there is a solution that can be found not too far away: a rural staycation. As it turns out, ditching the city for a stay in the countryside doesn’t just offer up some good shots for the ‘gram, but also helps to bring stress back to baseline and breathe new life into your training. Researchers at the University of East Anglia found that spending time in nature not only lowered salivary cortisol levels - which serves as a key marker of anxiety - but also helped to reduce diastolic blood pressure and improve sleep duration. So, perhaps it’s time to book that weekend getaway.