As the temperatures start to dip in the northern hemisphere it can be tempting to spend more time inside but then you don’t get the health benefits of getting outside! According to one survey, 25% of Americans said they spend almost their entire day inside rarely going outside. The EPA estimates that the average American spends 90% of their time indoors. (1) We are spending more time inside even though most of us would agree we feel better after spending a day outdoors.
No matter where you live, many of us are at our computers more and by the time we get home we are rushing off to meet other obligations. Before we know it, the day is done, and we didn’t get outside. It’s time to rethink all that indoor time. A 2018 report found that spending time in nature may improve your overall health and reduce your risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. (2) Whether you are taking a walk or spending time in your garden, there are many health benefits of being outside.
Let’s talk about some of the benefits of being outside and I bet you’ll agree that it’s worth finding time for.
6 Health Benefits of Getting Outside
1 – Increases Your Vitamin D
Spending time outside increases your vitamin D! When the sunlight hits your skin, the body synthesizes a hormone that plays a role in 1000 genes and numerous physiological processes. Those who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to get colds and flu. (3) They are also more likely to have more serious outcomes like pneumonia once they get sick.
2 – Boosts Your Mood
Studies show that those who spend more time outside and in nature report being happier and more positive than those who don’t get outside. Time outdoors boosts your serotonin which can help improve your mood. Outdoor time has also been shown to reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Spending just 20-30 minutes outside can greatly reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. Initial studies have shown there is potential to use nature to help those coping with major depression and PTSD. (4)
3 – Getting Outdoors Helps You Sleep
While spending time outside, you’re exposed to natural sunlight which helps regulate your circadian rhythm. That’s the rhythm that tells your body when it’s time to get going in the morning and when it’s time to chill out at night which means better sleep. Getting proper rest on a regular basis can help improve your overall health and your ability to handle stress.
4 – Need a Confidence Boost?
This one might surprise you but being outside boosts self-esteem. Studies have shown that those who get out in nature more also have higher self-esteem and more positive body image. Confidence gets you going and when you are out there conquering the world, it leads to more confidence.
5 – Nature Improves Focus
Technology makes it easier than ever to stay connected, and your brain is always moving right from one task to another. That’s not always a good thing! Spending time in nature gives your brain a break and can help restore your focus. Some studies have shown that there is potential for nature helping children cope with ADHD. (5)
6 – Improves Immunity
Increasing Vitamin D, lowering stress, and better sleep can all add up to improved immunity. Do you know why people get sick more during the flu season? It’s not because the season changed. It’s because they are spending more time inside, stressing out and eating sugar. Spending time outside will help with 2 out of 3 of those. Getting outside is one of the ways to support your immune system.
It’s Time to Get Outside
There are so many physical and mental health benefits of getting outside. Your outdoor time will encourage exercise and social connection. These are so important for building a healthy lifestyle. Get on your bike or play your favorite sport to reap the rewards. Make it something you enjoy! Maybe try beekeeping. It’s your call! You get all the health benefits for free, but you need to carve out the time. Don’t miss opportunities to get outside to enjoy the perks!
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn
To learn more about vitamin D, check out this video:
- Berkeley News