Call it eco-therapy, nature therapy, environmental psychology, or a day at the beach, but no matter how you look at it, a closer relationship with nature can restore and enhance your mental and physical well-being when you're living with arthritis.

What Is Eco-Therapy?
Naturalists, eco-therapists, and environmentalists view eco-therapy as a relatively new form of psychotherapy. It's based on the idea that nature has the same potential as any medication to help you relax and stave off depression and anxiety.

What does it mean to embrace nature as therapy? It means nothing more than "getting back to nature." It means strolling through the woods with your dog, hiking on trails, swimming in a lake, taking tai chi lessons in a park, working in your garden, or just about anything that gets you out into the open air and helps you escape the stress and strain of day-to-day life. The idea is to experience a healing environment by soaking up the natural light, colors, textures, and open spaces that can only be found outdoors.

Get in Touch With Nature—and Other People
If the activities you choose involve maintaining or inviting social connections in your life, so much the better. If you're looking for group activities, contact tour companies that specialize in wilderness excursions. You can also get in touch with nature conservation organizations, such as a local branch of the Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, or even your town or city parks department-enjoying nature doesn't have to involve a trek in the wilderness. Find out if any organizations are sponsoring a project you might want to get involved in, such as tree planting, community gardening, or helping to maintain local parks. There may be volunteer opportunities at a local zoo or botanical garden. These types of projects can be extremely restorative for both you and your community.

Eco-Exercise for People With Arthritis
Almost anything you do outdoors involves some type of exercise, which is necessary for both mental and physical health. The Arthritis Foundation recommends three types of exercises:

  • flexibility, or range-of-motion exercises,
  • strengthening or weight-bearing exercises, and
  • aerobic or cardiovascular exercises.

All of these can be accomplished on land and in water. Simply walking on a regular basis gives you the benefits of all three of these exercises, because it strengthens your muscles and bones as you bear your own weight; helps maintain joint flexibility, and helps build up aerobic endurance. This allows you to get more oxygen into your lungs, so you feel less fatigued. Swimming and other water exercises are especially good for managing arthritis since they allow you to work out without putting any stress on your joints.

By consistently practicing your own form of eco-therapy, you can get all the benefits of a workout without ever stepping into a gym.



Pagan, Camille Noe. "Exercise Is Good Medicine." Arthritis Today. Web.

Sternberg, Esther M., MD. "Nature as Remedy."  Arthritis Today.

Chalquist, Craig. "A Look at the Ecotherapy Research Evidence."  Ecopsychology 1(2) June 2009. Web.

Taking Charge of Your Health. "Feeling Down or Stressed? Try Eco-Therapy." University of Minnesota. Web. 13 Nov.  2009.