Here are the Health Benefits of Being Outside
America has been called an “indoor nation.” And when you look at the data, it’s hard to argue against the fact that we’re becoming a generation that no longer prioritizes the great outdoors as previous generations once did. As you might suspect, this is having a negative impact on physical health, mental health, relationships, and even the environment.
Are Americans Deprived of the Great Outdoors?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends roughly 93 percent of their life indoors. Of this time, 87 percent is spent inside buildings and 6 percent is spent in vehicles. Just 7 percent is spent outdoors. That works out to roughly an hour and a half per day.
Interestingly, we seem to have a warped view of this reality. When surveyed by Velux, people believe they spend approximately 18 percent of their waking time inside (roughly four hours). In reality, it’s more like 15-17 hours per day (or 22 hours if you count sleep time). The ramifications of spending this much time inside can’t be understated.
“We are a 24/7 society, and this has disconnected us from the natural rhythms of nature — our circadian rhythm, a neurophysiological term for the 24-hour body clock that anticipates and adapts our physiology to the different phases of the day, sleep and wake cycle,” says Peter Foldbjerg, head of daylight energy and indoor climate at Velux. “All of this impacts our sleep quality and general health.”
If we want to return to being healthier and happier, it starts with breaking through those walls and spending more time in the great outdoors.
The Benefits of Being Outside
Intuitively, we know that being outside is good for us. But what specific benefits does it provide? According to this certified therapeutic recreational specialist, health benefits include:
- Less stress and lower blood pressure
- Improved mood (lower levels of depression and anxiety)
- Increased focus and attention to detail
- Stronger immune system functioning and faster healing
- Graceful aging (fewer aches and pains)
- Higher levels of Vitamin D
This is just a small sampling of some of the benefits. When combined with physical activity and exercise, you can expect an even longer list of positive side effects. This includes better circulation and heart health, weight loss, and stronger muscles.
How to Spend More Time Outdoors
The benefits of being outside are clear. Now how do you make it happen? Here are several suggestions:
Plan for Time Outside
Don’t just assume that you’ll find a few spare moments to spend outside. Like anything else that’s a priority in your life, you need to plan for it. Look for small windows of time where you can steal 15 or 20 minutes outside. (Like when you’re on a conference call or during your lunch break.) But also seek out larger chunks of time, like the two hours of daylight in between the time you get off work and the sun goes down. The point is you need to plan ahead.
Use Your Backyard
If you live in a single-family house, the easiest way to get outside is by spending time in your backyard. During the summer months, the long days make this fairly easy to do. In the fall and winter, however, you have to get more creative. Installing a fire pit in your backyard is one great way to steal some extra time (even when it’s dark).
Make it Social
You don’t have to choose between a social life and being outside. Why not do both at the same time? Make your outdoor time your social time by taking walks with neighbors, jogging with friends, or inviting people over to hang out in your backyard.
Find a New Hobby
If you’re someone who doesn’t naturally gravitate toward the outdoors, you should find ways to make it more fun. The best way to do this is by starting a new hobby that requires you to be outside. Good examples include running, cycling, gardening, or golf.
Enjoy Some Sunshine!
As Americans, our lives center around being indoors. And with advancements in “comfort” technologies, we don’t always feel an urge to spend time outside. But the evidence is clear: If you want to be happy and healthy, you better soak up some rays!