Ask yourself this question: How much time do you spend outside every day?
If you’re like most people, you spend a whopping 87% of your life indoors. That’s according to a study by the EPA, which showed that the average American spends most of their lives inside buildings, leaving only 7% for the outdoors. How depressing is that?!
Kids too have swapped active, outdoor play for a more sedentary lifestyle, averaging seven hours daily in front of televisions, tablets, laptops and phones.
We’ve become the “indoor generation” spending most of our lives basking in the glow of a device instead of natural sunlight, and I think this is detrimental to our physical and mental health.
In this digital age it’s more important than ever to foster a connection with nature for you and your family.
I think we all have experienced the "pick-me-up" feeling you get when you go outside, and I wanted to dig into it a little bit more. Here's how getting outside will benefit your health and happiness.
1. More exercise
There’s no better place to walk, run, jump, throw and catch like the outdoors. All these actions require motor skills and burn calories, which prevent obesity and strengthen bones and muscles. It's hard to go outside and not run around and play (especially when you have kids!).
And it’s all free - all you need is a safe park, track, neighborhood or walking trail — no gym membership required!
2. Better bone health
Scientists recommend 5-15 minutes of sunlight per day to maintain strong bones! When the sun rays hit your skin, the body creates vitamin D, which plays a big role in bone health. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to rickets in children and bone-wasting diseases like osteoporosis and osteomalacia.
Get outside and get that sunshine!
3. Increased attention span
If you struggle to concentrate on a particular task, a quick 10-minute walk might be all you need to refresh your mind.
Researchers found that memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour interacting with nature. For young children, playing outdoors has been shown to improve their ability to learn new things and reduce their tendency towards distraction.
Studies of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) found that children with ADHD who spent significant time outdoors exhibited fewer symptoms.
4. More socialization
We’re social beings and therefore connecting with others is essential to both our emotional and physical health. Despite the popularity of mobile communication and social networks, people are more socially isolated than ever before.
Being outdoors increases our chance to interact with others and form meaningful bonds that can enrich our lives. It’s also crucial for children’s social development; they can learn to make friends, how to share and how to treat other people.
A two-year study found that that kids who play outdoors are less likely to bully other children.
5. Connectedness to nature
There’s a direct correlation between appreciation of nature and our attitude towards environmental sustainability. If we don’t walk in the woods, see animals in their habitat, climb a hill or play in a stream, we may never really understand what is at stake. The future of our planet depends on us and we need to learn to appreciate it. This is exactly why I encourage you to go outside on Earth Day!
6. More Creativity
In order to get your creative juices flowing, you need to be able to reduce fatigue and boost your energy levels. Nothing clears the mind better than a walk in nature which can clear the brain clutter and make room for some creative inspiration. You’ll come back to work energized and inspired to create again. I've been trying to take walks at lunch again, and I can't believe I ever stopped.
7. Stronger immune system
Trees and plants give off phytoncides – volatile organic compounds or essential oils which have antibacterial and antifungal properties that help to fight disease. When inhaled, they trigger the production of white blood cells which are necessary for the battle against disease and infections.
Exposure to phytoncides has also been shown to significantly improve mental and physical relaxation by reducing stress hormones, blood pressure, and pulse rate.
8. Happier mood
It’s well-established that those who spend more time in natural settings tend to be happier and more positive, but why?
A few minutes in the sunlight stimulates the parts of your retina that then cue your brain to produce serotonin; your body's natural “feel good” chemical. Higher levels of serotonin can lead to feelings of happiness!
9. Improved mental health
Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (52.9 million people) suffer from diagnosable mental disorders including anxiety and depression.
Studies have shown that insufficient outdoor exposure in today’s modern lifestyle is a major contributing factor. In fact, city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders when compared to people living closer to nature.
Seeking natural environments can lower the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
10. Fresher air
You might be shocked to learn that the concentrations of some pollutants indoors are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. These pollutants come from synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners that could cause a host of health issues such as dermatitis, headaches, respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer.
If you can, go out and get some fresh air as much as possible.
It’s time to go outside!
With so many physical and mental health benefits of getting outside for you and your family, there’s so simply no reason to stay cooped up indoors all day. The possibilities are endless - go for a run, take a hike, get on your bike, play your favorite sport or simply bask in the sun to reap the rewards. Make it something you enjoy and start today!