Spend time outside in Tuscaloosa and reap the benefits 

Hannah Shedd, Contributing Columnist

Fall is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the outdoor recreational areas that Tuscaloosa has to offer. As the weather begins to cool and the leaves begin to change, spending time outside becomes even more enjoyable. 


Benefits of Spending Time Outside

Spending time outdoors has many benefits. Hiking, camping, biking and hammocking are not only fun activities, but they positively impact your mind and body. 

Enjoying nature can cause various positive changes in your mental health. Some of these benefits include lower risk of depression, restoration and strengthening of mental abilities, and increased ability to focus. 

One major mental benefit of exposure to nature is decreased stress. In fact, being outdoors has been linked to lower cortisol levels, a hormone that indicates stress. Additionally, exposure to sunlight increases serotonin levels, which encourages mental calmness.

Outdoor recreation activities also provide space for community and social connection. Having activities to do with others can be extremely beneficial to your mental health.

The benefits of nature go far beyond the mental effects. Nature also promotes physical health. Studies have shown that exercising in green spaces is more effective than exercising indoors. 

Spending time outside also helps regulate sleep patterns and promote better sleep. Exposure to sunlight is vital to ensuring your internal clock is working efficiently.

Sunlight helps produce vitamin D, which increases immunity. Increased vitamin D intake also encourages proper bone growth and prevents cancer, heart attacks, strokes and more.


Getting Outside in Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa and the surrounding area is home to spaces that are perfect for spending time outdoors. 

Lake Nicol (CW File)

Lake Lurleen State Park is only nine miles northwest of Tuscaloosa and provides area for various outdoor activities, including 23 miles of trails for hiking and biking, 91 campsites, a beach area for swimming and the 250-acre lake itself. Other lakes nearby include Lake Nicol, Lake Tuscaloosa and Lake Harris. All are perfect for swimming, fishing, boating or just hanging out. 

Hurricane Creek Park and The Riverwalk are also nearby and offer beautiful views of the Black Warrior River. 

The University of Alabama Arboretum is only a ten minute drive from campus. The arboretum is a great way to get outside and learn about biodiversity and conservation. It is also home to a community garden, trails and a stream. 

Preparing For Time Outside

Sokol Bike Trail
Sokol Bike Trail (CW File)

 Major outdoor activities can seem like a daunting task. There are logistics and gear to consider. Don’t let fear or a lack of supplies be a deterrent to promoting your physical and mental health by spending time outdoors. 

Getting outside can be as simple as taking a walk or sitting in the grass. It does not have to be a big adventure. Any time outside is healthy and beneficial. 

If you do need gear for an outdoor excursion, the University has an Outdoor Recreation Rental Center. They rent gear from canoes to cookware, making every outdoor opportunity within reach for students. 

Enjoy the fall weather and prioritize your mental and physical well-being in a fun way this year. Grab some friends, get your gear if needed, and get outside!