There is an increasing body of research proving that spending time in nature is an essential part of being healthy. Being in the outdoors benefits people both cognitively and physically, contributing to overall health by enhancing the immune system, reducing anxiety, lowering blood pressure and stress hormone levels, and boosting a person’s mood, to name just a few advantages. In fact, one study conducted by researchers at the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, pinpointed the amount of time need to reap these benefits to at least two hours per week. Fortunately, there are plenty of places in the Capital Region, both close to home and within a short drive–to get a good dose of the natural world that boosts our health. Here are just a few suggestions.  

Dine al fresco. Pack a picnic and head to a park. If you’re not sure if picnic tables are available, bring a blanket. Enjoy a great meal breathing in fresh air and listening to the birds. You’re likely to attract some other curious wildlife, too. If you’re pressed for time, sit out on your patio or head to the covered patio lounge area and take in some fresh air while you dine.  

Get out on the water. One of the closest opportunities to enter the water is from the Mohawk Harbor. Upstate Kayak Rentals rents kayaks by the hour from the harbor, which is just 10-minutes away from Solara Luxury Apartments. If you’re up for a drive, lakes abound in the Capital Region. Neighboring Fulton County boasts 44 lakes with plenty of opportunities to get out in a kayak, canoe, or even pontoon boat. Kayaking and canoeing provides the added bonus of an upper-body workout, too.  

Go eagle watching. The Schoharie County Eagle Trail provides a map with directions to 16 locations where you might spot this majestic bird of prey. If you want to scout for eagles from the water, the less-trafficked Schoharie Reservoir is the place to do it. The reservoir is part of New York City’s reservoir system, which has the largest nesting density of bald eagles anywhere in New York State. The water, high trees, and undisturbed land creates a particularly good habitat for the eagles. Any watercraft has to be steam cleaned before being allowed on the reservoir, but local vendors near the reservoir rent already-cleaned craft for recreational purposes at reasonable rates.  

Climb a fire tower. Forest fires used to be a big problem for a good part of the twentieth century, so New York State constructed over 100 towers across the state. Today, there are 25 towers to the north in the Adirondacks and six to the south in the Catskills that offer hikers a spectacular view of these mountain ranges. Spruce Mountain Fire Tower and Hadley Mountain Fire County are in nearby Saratoga County, and Kane Mountain Fire Tower is in Fulton County, offering visitors a view of Caroga Lake. The Adirondack Mountain Club has a “Fire Tower Challenge,” encouraging people to hike 23 Adirondack and Catskill Towers. For a list of fire towers, visit the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.  

Volunteer in a garden. Getting your hands into the dirt is a great way to be in nature, and for some, gardening even offers a meditative experience. Many local gardens welcome volunteers. Two examples are the Central Park Rose Garden in Schenectady and the Yaddo Gardens in Saratoga Springs. Both gardens were restored by and are now maintained by volunteers. Volunteer gardening is a way to get outside and serve the community at the same time.  

Opportunities abound to be in nature. Build “nature time” into your weekly schedule for a healthier lifestyle.