Why Spending More Time Outside Is Beneficial

Research shows that the average American spends 87 percent of their time in enclosed buildings and 6 percent of their time in enclosed vehicles.1 That’s a total of 93 percent of your life spent inside.

There are a number of reasons why this is unhealthy — for body, mind, and spirit. For starters, levels of many pollutants concentrate indoors, where levels are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations

Simply opening your windows to let more fresh air in is actually one of the easiest and most effective ways to help purify your indoor living spaces and decrease your exposure to disease-causing pollutants, mold, and more.

This is a sound strategy to do regularly, even in the winter. Ideally, open two windows on opposite sides of the house for cross ventilation. Keep them open for about ten minutes, as that will exchange most of the air. Of course, do it in the warmest part of the day if it is winter.

Alternatively, you can get more fresh air just by spending more time outdoors – and there are many benefits you’ll receive by doing this, above and beyond the fresh air. The benefits are so great that you should strive to get outdoors virtually every day – even if it’s winter and the temperatures are low.

5 Reasons to Get Outdoors

Thinking of hibernating until spring comes? Resist the urge and get outside instead. TIME recently featured 5 great reasons to do so if you’re looking for a bit of extra motivation

1. Boost Your Creativity and Focus

If you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with a brilliant idea, take a walk outside. One study found walking increased 81 percent of participants’ creativity, but walking outside produced “the most novel and highest quality analogies.

Among children with ADHD, meanwhile, spending time in nature leads to improvements in focus and higher scores on concentration tests. Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods, even used the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe behavioral problems he believes stem from spending less time outdoors

2. Improve Your Mood and Self-Esteem

“Green exercise,” which is exercise in the presence of nature, has unique benefits above and beyond indoor exercise. One meta-analysis of 10 studies found that physical activity outdoors for as little as five minutes leads to measurable improvements in mood and self-esteem

While every “green environment” studied led to these improvements, exercise near water generated the greatest effects. Researcher Jules Pretty from the University of Essex said

“You get a very substantial benefit from the first five minutes. We should be encouraging people in busy and stressed environments to get outside regularly, even for short bits of time.”

Spending time outdoors is also a recommended treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is sometimes called “winter depression.” Outdoor light exposure may help your mood even if it’s cold and cloudy. According to the Mayo Clinic:

Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.”

3. Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

It’s estimated that over 95 percent of US senior citizens may be deficient in vitamin D, along with 85 percent of the American public.

Researchers have noted that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in adults of all ages who have increased skin pigmentation (such as those whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East, or India), or who always wear sun protection or limit their outdoor activities.

Increasing your vitamin D levels is important, as researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half.

Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.

4. Improve Your Workouts

As mentioned, exercising outdoors yields increased benefits over indoor exercise. In addition to boosting your mood, outdoor exercise can be more challenging, leading to greater physical gains. For instance, if you walk, jog, or cycle outdoors, you’ll have to expend more energy to overcome wind and changes in terrain.

Among older adults (a population that generally tends to spend very little time outdoors), those who exercise outdoors accumulated significantly more physical activity than those who exercised indoors. There’s even research showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lower when people exercise outdoors as opposed to indoors.

5. Healing Potential

There’s something inherently healing about spending time outdoors. Part of it has to do with exposure to natural light. One study found people exposed to 46 percent more sunlight after surgery used 22 percent less pain medication per hour.

However, there are likely benefits even beyond the light exposure. Research shows, for instance, that older adults who spend more time outdoors have less pain, sleep better and have less functional decline in their ability to carry out their daily activities.


11 Scientific Reasons You Should Be Spending More Time Outside

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