Have you ever noticed how much better and happier you feel after spending some time outdoors? Whether you take a short walk at the nearest park, go for an adventurous hike, step outside in your backyard, or spend the whole day at the beach, spending time outside has so many benefits for your physical and mental health. Find out all the health benefits of spending time outdoors and why stepping outside can make you feel better and happier.
But did you know that most Americans spend 93% of their time indoors in between their home, office, and car? The average American child spends only between 4 and 7 minutes of time playing outdoors every day. To me, this is mind-blowing.
Spending so much time inside isn’t great for our (and our kids’) physical and mental health. It’s linked to increased risks of depression, sleep problems, obesity, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and even autoimmune conditions. The main culprits are artificial lights and poor air quality, but there are many other reasons why spending too much time indoors can be detrimental to our health.
So, let’s dive in and look at all the health benefits of spending time outdoors!
Exposure to sunlight
The first reason why being outdoor is so important is exposure to sunlight. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it synthetizes Vitamin D, an essential vitamin and hormone for our bodies. Adequate levels of Vit D promote bone health, decrease inflammation, and help prevent infections and other diseases. Want to know more about the importance of Vit D for your health? Read here
But sunlight is so much more than Vit D. In fact, studies have shown that Vit D supplementation doesn’t produce the same health benefits as sunlight exposure. So, why is the sun so important?
First of all, when direct sunlight reaches our skin, it activates a series of important reactions. For example, sunlight stimulates sulfate production, which plays a role in the transport of Vit D and cholesterol in the blood. This factor contributes to decreased risks of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure. In response to sunlight, our skin also synthetizes other important molecules such as melatonin and dopamine, which can improve sleep, mood, and neurological functions. Try exposing your skin to the sun with no sunscreen for at least 20 minutes every day, if possible. Learn more about safe sun exposure here.
Additionally, exposing our eyes to natural light and sunlight is vital to regulating circadian rhythms and promoting restful sleep. Unhealthy sleep routines can cause hormone imbalances, which manifest with symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, weight gain, infertility, and many others. Recent studies even relate increased exposure to sunlight with a reduced risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children because of the regulatory effect on circadian rhythms.
So, if you (or your kids) struggle with poor sleep, the best medicine might be stepping outside. But remember to leave your sunglasses at home so that your eyes are directly exposed to the natural light!
Want to know more about the benefits of natural light? Read here
Better air quality
Indoor air quality can be a real hazard to our health. The air in every building (and vehicle) is contaminated by a myriad of pollutants, including molds, solvents, pesticides, smoke, pet dander, and gases. These come from building materials and home furnishing, as well as commonly used home and personal products and pets. Breathing air that is contaminated with these pollutants can lead to frequent headaches, respiratory symptoms, and allergic reactions, but can also have more serious effects such as neurological, metabolic and reproductive disorders, and even increase the risk of cancer.
Whereas you can (and should) take steps to improve the indoor air quality in your home (read more here), spending more time outdoors is an easy way to lower the risks associated with poor air quality. Even a highly polluted outdoor environment such as a trafficked street has better air quality than most indoor buildings! Another reason to go outside right now!
More physical activity
Typically, going outside includes some sort of physical activity, such as walking. When inside, most people spend most of their time sitting, often using electronic devices, and doing passive activities such as watching TV. Hey, if you (just like me) are a busy mom who doesn’t get to sit for more than a minute a day, don’t mind this, you’re the exception!
A sedentary lifestyle increases the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression and anxiety. So, try getting outside for at least a short walk every day, do some yard work or gardening, or go to the park with your kids! Your physical and mental health will thank you. Looking for some other ideas to get more active without going to the gym? Read here
Connection with nature
Being in close contact with nature is proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve symptoms of depression. Boost your mood by going to a green area, a beach, or whatever is available to you! Studies showed that being in nature might even alleviate physical pain and discomfort.
If you feel like taking these benefits to the next level, you might want to try some grounding. Grounding techniques like walking barefoot, lying on the ground, or swimming in a pond or ocean can lower body pain and fatigue, and improve mood and sleep. Read more about grounding here.
Did you know that being in nature also boosts creativity, attention, and productivity? So don’t feel bad if you like to take a break from your work and step outside, your performance might actually improve!
The combination of sunlight entering the eyes and the exercise of focusing on objects farther away strengthens the eyes and can delay the onset of myopia in children and slow its progression. People have even reported a reverse effect on their myopia after increasing the time spent outdoors. In contrast, spending time on a screen can worsen myopia and damage the retina.
So what are you waiting for?
In synthesis, spending time outdoors every day comes with many health benefits that will make you (and your kids) feel better and happier. Being outdoors lowers inflammation, balances your hormones, promotes restful sleep, helps maintain a healthy weight, boosts energy, creativity and productivity, and even improves your vision! I don’t think you need more reasons, now you only need to make it happen! Read more about some simple and fun ways to spend more time outdoors here.
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