5 Reasons Why Getting Outside is Good for You
Research shows that the average American spends 93 percent of their time enclosed inside.1 This is nuts! But sadly, relatively accurate. It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I took my first 9-5 “office” job while living in Denver, Colorado. This was the first time in my life where I sat at a desk, with little exposure to the outside world. Luckily, I had a standing desk, but despite my best efforts the 9-5 office grind got to me. I was increasingly more tired, achy and my general mood was greatly affected. I loved my job and the people I worked with and couldn’t figure out why I was in a funk –then it hit me. I almost never saw daylight.
As I connected the dots I knew I needed to make a change. I needed sunlight and movement. So I started walking to and from work which was about 1 mile each way and tried taking my lunch outside. This one simple change helped big time. I was happier, my joints didn’t hurt as much, and I got to listen to tons of audio books and podcasts. I also got over my hatred for being cold. This experiment worked so well that I sold my car which meant that if it snowed or if it was below freezing (which it was a few times), I still had to walk.
So, as I was thinking about what I wanted to include in the Fitmas challenge, getting outdoors was an easy choice. Although today’s challenge is to get outside for at least 30 minutes, I highly encourage you to incorporate the outdoors every single day….even if its only for a few minutes. Winter is tough. It’s cold and there’s a whole lot less sunlight. Thus, it’s even more important during this time of year to find ways to get outside and breath in some fresh air. Below are some really solid reasons to spend more time outside and its impact on our health.
- Improves Mood
“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.6
Not to mention, spending time outdoors is also an amazing treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), aka “winter depression.” Outdoor light exposure may help your mood even if it’s cold and cloudy. According to the Mayo Clinic:8
Aside from creating a positive frame of mind, being in touch with nature helps boost our serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter in our bodies) levels, according to WebMD.
- Boosts Creativity
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.”4
And according to Harvard Health, children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors. It might be a stretch to say that applies to adults, but if you have trouble concentrating, outdoor activity may help. Personally, I don’t think it’s a stretch at all.
- Better Workouts
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 example, if you walk, jog, or cycle outdoors, you’ll have to expend more energy to overcome wind and changes in terrain.10
- Increases Vitamin D & Immune Function
Studies suggest that this vitamin helps fight certain conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks. Vitamin D also helps combat colds and the flu virus, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.
Researches at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan, found that women who had spent at least three hours outdoors every day saw an increase in the level of their white blood cells, which help fight viruses and diseases.
- Better Sleep
In 2012, 60 million Americans filled prescriptions for sleeping pills, up from 46 million in 2006 (as reported in The New York Times). We clearly have some sleeping issues. But did you know that exposing our eyes to natural sunlight in the morning strengthens your circadian rhythms and helps regulate sleep cycles? If it’s doable, workout first thing in the morning (outside). If that isn’t doable, try taking a brief morning walking or walking lunch break. You will reep the benefits when you’re ready for bed!
1Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology (2001) 11, 231–252.