A Dose of Nature as Medicine with Melissa Sundermann, DO, DipABLM


Image by bertvthul from Pixabay

Episode Summary

In a world that is increasingly technology-based, our time spent outside of offices, cars, and homes is often limited. As a “Doctor Outdoors,” Melissa Sundermann, DO, advocates for a nature-based approach to lifestyle, and in this episode, we discuss the medical benefits of daily exposure to fresh air, sunlight, and vegetation.

“…it’s this multi-factorial of decreasing our cortisol, boosting our immune system, decreasing our heart rate and blood pressure, reducing our overall stress.”

Melissa offers insight into her prescriptive measures of movement and mindfulness using the “5-4-3-2-1” method for engaging all of your senses when you are in Nature. She also suggests how you can create the time and motivation to get outdoors, emphasizing that any intentional effort toward achieving daily movement, however small, will benefit your long-term wellbeing.

“It doesn’t have to be at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., but by just getting outdoors for about 15 or20 minutes in the morning, we get our vitamin D levels up [and] boost our serotonin levels.”

Listen to the full episode to learn how you can incorporate nature-based practices into your lifestyle.

Here are the details of our conversation:

[00:01:49] Melissa’s ultramarathon adventures

[00:05:28] Finding balance between work and movement in Nature

[00:07:50] Circadian function in indoor and outdoor light

[00:09:19] “There’s no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

[00:12:15] Practicing mindfulness using the “5-4-3-2-1” method

[00:16:03] Biophilia

[00:18:06] Targeting time outdoors

[00:20:33] Using nature as stress management

[00:26:08] Strengthening the pillars of lifestyle medicine through Nature

[00:29:31] Melissa’s work and additional resources for using Nature as medicine

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Episode Notes

Dr. Melissa Sundermann is a plant-based physician double board certified in both 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-based diet, 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 currently practices Lifestyle Medicine at Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort in Lenox, MA. Prior to this role, she practiced medicine with IHA in Ann Arbor, Michigan 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 young adult children and 2 big furry 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.


Connect with Melissa on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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