Moving Mountains - The Power of Movement in Nature to Reach the Peak of Well-Being

Melissa Sundermann

Lifestyle Medicine Physician at Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort, Lenox, MA, USA

Dr. Melissa Sundermann is a double board-certified physician in Internal Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine and has been practicing medicine for over 20 years. She also has training in Integrative Medicine through the University of Michigan and has completed a Professional Training Program in Mind Body Medicine through the Center for Mind Body Medicine based in Washington, DC. She has been featured in several Lifestyle Medicine articles and podcasts as well as an invited speaker for health/medical national conferences. She strongly believes in fostering a partnership with her patients and helping to guide them towards a healing pathway through self-care utilizing Lifestyle Medicine principles.

Her 7 pillars of health include a wholefood plant-slant dietary pattern, daily movement, restorative sleep, avoidance of risky behaviors (such as tobacco, excessive alcohol, drug use), stress management, social connection and daily exposure to nature and fresh air. Dr. Sundermann is also known as “Doctor Outdoors” and Chairs the Nature as Medicine sub-committee for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Dr. Sundermann currently specializes in Lifestyle Medicine at Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort in Lenox, MA and is also the co-founder of REVIVE! Lifestyle Medicine Well-Being Coaching. Prior to these roles, she practiced medicine with IHA in Ann Arbor, MI where she helped to launch the IHA Lifestyle Medicine Institute and also led the IHA Staywell Committee which focuses on optimizing the health and well-being for 3000 employees of IHA. She does her best to practice what she preaches and enjoys running, biking, hiking, skiing and spending time outdoors and creating adventures with her husband, 2 children and 2 dogs. She is a 10x Boston Marathon finisher, 3x Full Ironman Triathlon finisher and currently training for several upcoming Ultramarathons. She truly believes that age is just a number and is passionate about spreading this word to all of her patients, family and friends.

Moving Mountains - The Power of Movement in Nature to Reach the Peak of Well-Being

There are 6 Official Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine and now mounting evidence that supports daily exposure to nature and fresh air are also vital to optimizing overall physical and mental health. Time spent in nature has been shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem. Moreover, the evidence demonstrates associations between greenness and overall improved health. In a study of 20,000 people, a team led by Matthew White of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces-local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits-were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don't. The positive effects of time spent in nature spanned across different occupations, ethnic groups, financial status and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. "Forest Bathing" is the term coined by Japanese researchers for walking in the woods. It is suspected that aerosols from the forests which are inhaled during walking, are responsible for elevated levels of Natural Killer (NK) cells in the immune system which can help to fight off infections and tumors. In a culture of ever increasing technology and screen time, now more than ever it is crucial to educate and empower patients to incorporate nature into therapeutic treatment regimens.