Most of the daily grind happens indoors. An epidemiological study shows that the average American spends 87% of his time in enclosed buildings and 6% of his time in enclosed vehicles. Being inside a car’s doors counts as being indoors as well!
When was the last time you took a good, long look at the sky? Stepping outside from time to time, even just for a little while, is a great way to take a break that gives back as there are many benefits of spending time outdoors. Even without exercising, just being outside can already improve our mental and physical health. The benefits of spending time outdoors include protecting us from sicknesses, making us stronger, and helping us heal better.
It’s good for your mood.
Research shows how you can have more than just fun under the sun. Spending time outdoors can reduce your stress. Being outdoors reduces your levels of cortisol, and it decreases your anxiety as well. You can try this out by taking a quick walk outside to lower your stress levels.
Walking in green spaces can even place your brain in a meditative state. Taking walks in green spaces like forests can reduce your blood pressure, lower your heart rate, lower your fatigue, and improve your mood. In this study, researchers found that study participants who spent 25 minutes in a green zone showed lower frustration, engagement and arousal, and higher meditation than the participants who were not in the green zone.
Surrounding yourself with nature just makes everything better for your brain. Studies have shown that some benefits of spending time outdoors include reducing exhaustion and increasing energy while enjoying outdoor activities. A Harvard letter states that exposure to light and doing physical activity can elevate people’s moods.
Spending time outdoors can improve your mental health. This study shows how moving to greener urban areas is linked to sustained mental health improvements. The study participants who moved to greener areas showed improved mental health scores than before their move. Considering moving out? Get to know the area’s green spaces or lack of it first. It’s for your health.
It means exercising more.
Getting more sun makes people more physically active. Just exercising outside can increase our energy exertion. Maybe it’s because we enjoy being outside and thus tend to exercise more. A Harvard letter states that American children often spend their time indoors doing sedentary activities like watching television or playing video games. Children outdoors are twice as active as children indoors. Exercising in the green outdoors is found to contribute to our mental health as well.
It improves your concentration.
Among children with ADHD, spending time outdoors improved their focus, according to a Harvard letter.
Feeling stumped? Take a hike. “Give your ideas some legs: the positive effect of walking on creative thinking” is Oppezzo and Schwartz’ brilliantly titled study which discusses how walking boosts creative ideation. Walking was found to get the flow of ideas going.
It’s a great way to get your dose of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D keeps our bones strong. Without enough Vitamin D, our bones can become brittle, misshapen or thin. Vitamin D reduces inflammation and participates in neuromuscular and immune function as well. Yes, one of the easiest ways to fight the flu is to step outside.
Benefits of spending time outdoors include increasing our exposure to Vitamin D. Many people do not get enough vitamin D because they spend too much time indoors. Not getting enough sunlight and not eating enough food with vitamin D means we do not get the amount we need.
The good news is that the best source of vitamin D is already available and free. Vitamin D is produced when when the sun’s UV rays hit our skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. 15 minutes under the sun provides you with adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Remember to spend your time under the sun safely! Drink water before, during, and after prolonged exposure to the sun, specially if temperatures are high. Use sunblock and bring an umbrella in case it gets too hot.
It means better sleep.
The benefits of spending time outdoors do not stop at the outdoors. Sleeping can be improved by spending time outdoors.
Among patients with dementia in nursing homes, an increase of time spent outdoors resulted in a modest improvement in sleep. A study shows how men and people 65 years old and above reported better sleep when they had access to natural surroundings. Natural surroundings include green spaces of a park and even beaches with ocean views. If you do not live near a beach, a walk in the park can help you catch better Z’s.
It’s a healthy long-term habit for a long life.
This study shows how spending time outdoors everyday is beneficial for independent older people. For these study participants, the benefits of spending time outdoors were having reduced functional decline and improved health measures. At 70 years old, not going out was linked with poorer health. Another study shows how elders who go out more often were less functionally-impaired, more socially active, and less depressed than elders who would go out less.
It’s never too late to start going outdoors, but of course it would be better to start now than later. 17% of children in America are obese. Rising obesity rates are linked with raising rates of Type 2 diabetes, asthma, vitamin D deficiency, and ADHD, and a shift to a more sedentary lifestyle is to blame.
It heals better.
There is a reason why the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, sent tuberculosis sufferers to the hills. Heliotherapy is the treatment of diseases by using sunlight, which the ancient Greeks were shown to use. The Incas of Peru would treat ailments with sunbaths as well. In a more modern study, researchers tried to determine the effects of physical environmental stimuli in healthcare settings on the health and well-being of patients. They found positive effects for sunlight, windows, odour, and seating arrangements.
Something about being outdoors makes people heal better. Walch et. al’s study shows that when patients who have undergone spinal surgery received exposure to natural sunlight during their recovery period in the hospital, they may have experienced decreased stress, pain, analgesic medication use, and pain medication costs. They based their study on others which associated exposure to natural sunlight with improvements in mood, cancer mortality rates, and length of hospitalization of patients who have experienced myocardial infarction (what we would call a heart attack). Recovering from something? Get well sooner by spending time outdoors.