When we were young, Gen Xers and older anyway, our parents were ALWAYS insisting that we go outside and play! Usually saying that we didn’t need to be inside “on this beautiful day” (no matter the weather). And that they didn’t want us “under foot”. In recent years outdoor play has become more limited especially leisure play time. But, it turns out that no matter what their motivation was the parents of the 80’s and before were right! You really do need to be outside! So, regardless of your age read on to find out the MIND-BLOWING benefits of time outdoors. And, don’t worry I’ve also included some suggestions regarding how to incorporate more outdoor time into your life! I know, you may have forgotten. I sure had!!!
Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors
Physical Health Benefits
Children who spend 2 hours a day outside are less likely to INHERIT myopia. Meaning, they are less likely to be nearsighted even if their parents are. I found this one pretty shocking too but, epigenetics are clearly at play here!
Spending time outside helps you to avoid CVS (computer vision syndrome), which is apparently a real thing. The symptoms are blurred vision, dry, red or irritated eyes, double vision, headaches, migraines, and neck or back pain.
Pain and Inflammation
High intensity sunlight decreases pain and speeds recovery. This has been shown to be true even after spinal surgery. Patients who spent more time in the sun required less pain medication and healed more quickly.
Chronic and Acute inflammation are both reduced from spending time in nature. This could benefit everything from minor ailments like aches and brain fog to major illnesses like autoimmune disorders.
Disease Risk and Immunity
Spending time outdoors lowers risk of early death in general. I wouldn’t think this because of outdoor accidents (and creatures) but it’s true!
Risk of lung and kidney disease is decreased by spending time outdoors regularly.
Cancer risks could be significantly decreased by walking 150 minutes per week (less than 30 min a day) outside. Also, walking everyday decreases the risk of dying from breast or prostrate cancer in those already diagnosed with it by as much as 40%.
Spending 3 days outdoors improves the immune system for up to 30 days after. The Japanese practice “Forest Bathing” (which is basically just camping for 3 days) as preventative medicine. For those of you who don’t know the Japanese have the 2nd highest life expectancy in the world. Exposure to plants, in general, is good for your immune system but being submerged in nature is even better!
Spending just 30 minutes gardening decreases cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes us to gain and maintain visceral fat. That’s the super unhealthy fat that builds up in the belly area and causes disease and death. So, you definitely want to decrease that!
Spending time outdoors cuts back on your exposure to air pollution and positive ions (the bad ones). Both of which are detrimental to your physical and mental health.
Mental Health Benefits
SAD (seasonal effective disorder) is significantly improved by spending time outside. It is not entirely clear why, though there is speculation that it has to do with increased vitamin D levels.
On that topic, most people are vitamin D deficient. This is causing a whole host of mental illness and misery. Spending time outdoors increases vitamin D levels.
Being outdoors not only improves major depressive disorder but it can prevent you from developing it in the first place. And, of course, it alleviates anxiety.
You naturally get more exercise when you spend more time outdoors. Something about being outside just makes you want to be more active!
It feels a lot easier to exercise outside. There is an impact on your brain and psyche that makes it feel less difficult and more enjoyable.
Exercising outdoors decreases risk of heart attack and stroke and improves type 2 Diabetes.
Moderate outdoor exercise has the same effect on the body as strenuous indoor exercise. So, you get more bang for your buck!
Productivity & Quality of Life Benefits
Energy levels increase when you spend time outdoors. You get an energy boost equal to a cup of coffee by just spending 20 minutes outside! And, best part is it won’t keep you up at night. Try it when you get the afternoon sleepies (or is that just me).
Fatigue decreases and mental energy bounces back when spending time in nature, particularly when taking pictures.
Mood & Stress
Spending time in nature improves mood and self-esteem. Especially when combined with exercise.
The natural fragrances of the outdoors make you more calm and relaxed.
Nature has so much impact on stress levels that even a view of nature can decrease stress levels.
Productivity and Performance
Spending time outside improves creativity. And, spending a few days (without electronics) in nature improves it by 50%! In other words, if you are trying to write a book or prepare a big project spending the weekend camping will pay off big time!
Cognitive function is improved by time outdoors. It even causes better academic performance.
If you have a time consuming task you’re working on and having trouble concentrating, head outside! Just being out on your lunch break will restore your focus. For additional benefits take a 1 hour walk. That will cause a 20% increase in concentration!
There’s a new thing called the “ecotherapy movement”. Their goal is to get people out into nature to cure their ills. They have found that spending 20 minutes in a park helps kids with ADHD concentrate better.
Be a Better Person!
Spending time in nature actually makes us better people! Like everything else in this article, this is scientifically accurate. When we spend time outdoors we reconnect and remember important core values to humanity. Things like relationships and community become focal points. Our lives and those of the people around us improve!
How to get out there
Yes, I know… you’re busy! We’re all busy! But with these kinds of benefits & may I add, time savings in the long run, how can you not spend some time outside?!?! If you haven’t done it in a while it might seem wholly unfamiliar. What do people do out there anyway???
Go for a walk.
I live in a culturally diverse community and guess what, people from other parts of the world go for a walk every evening after dinner. We could all learn something from our world neighbors! You should get out there! Meet your neighbors. Walk the dog. Enjoy!
Take your exercise routine outside. There are very few things that you can do in the house that you can’t do outside. Get creative. If you really don’t know where to start head to YouTube and search “outdoor workouts”. There are so many options! And I’ll bet your wifi reaches your back porch or you can follow along on your smart phone. Is it better to be without electronics outside, sure. But, it’s most important that you just get out there. You could also go for a jog or bike ride. No need to be complicated!
Get a whole weekend away into nature and leave your devices turned off or at least out of sight! There are all sorts of ways to get into this activity. It’s perfectly fine to start in a cabin or RV and work up to tent camping. Just make sure that the bulk of your time is spend outdoors.
If you live in a 4 season climate, like me, you’ll want to take up some seasonal activities. Yes, I can walk year round but that would get pretty boring. Who actually wants to go for a walk when it’s freezing outside and there’s a foot of snow on the ground? In the winter I love cross country skiing and we just got snowshoes as well. I also love kayaking and plan to take up paddle boarding. Seriously, I bought inflatable kayaks and paddle boards (with detachable seats) so I can easily take them with me where ever I go!
Yep, it’s that simple! Go outside and play. Play Frisbee or golf. Play tag with your kids, or friends (I’ve seen the movie, it’s for grown ups too!) Just head outside for some good old fashioned fun!
I Know, MIND-BLOWING
No matter how you spend your time outside, it will be time well spent! There are just too many benefits to ignore. And seriously some of them are mind-blowing, monumentus, headline news type benefits! The increases in productivity, concentration and performance not to mention length of life and health mean that you’ll get way more time back than you put in. I mean, who doesn’t want to use their time more efficiently and have fun while doing it?
So get yourself out there and have fun! Enjoy being outdoors! Share this article and create an outdoor community! Encourage your friends and family to live their best lives and join you in nature and good health!