When most of us were kids, it wasn’t uncommon to spend hours on end just playing outside with friends. Then, as time passed, we got jobs, bought houses and became grownups. Most of our activities moved indoors ― behind computer screens and at work.
Research Shows It’s Better to Spend More Time Outside
Recent studies have found that the vast majority of adults spend more than 90 percent of their lives indoors. The small amount of time that those adults do spend outdoors is largely inside of a vehicle on their commutes.
Experts tell us that it is incredibly beneficial to spend time each day outside. There are several health benefits related to being outside.
Being Outside Increases the Body’s Vitamin D Levels
One study out of the University in California, Berkley, found that for most people, getting around 20 minutes of sun on their arms and legs three times a week for most of the year results in high levels of vitamin D in the blood. Vitamin D has been shown to help protect the body against osteoporosis, depression, cancer and heart disease.
Getting Outside More Will Help You Sleep Better at Night
Artificial light is no friend to your body’s internal clock. Our circadian rhythm is linked intricately to the schedule of the sun. Inadequate time outdoors can disrupt your sleep and cause insomnia.
In a report for Psych Central, Psychotherapist Frances Hennessey wrote, “Light is the single most important external factor that influences circadian rhythms. Modern humans living in industrialized societies typically do not get enough light during the daytime hours, and then get too much artificial light in the evening.” We can turn the situation around by getting plenty of sunlight exposure first thing in the morning. Usually, about 15 minutes a day, without sunglasses filtering out the brightness, will improve the body’s sleep-wake cycle dramatically and help you rest better at night.
Just Five Minutes Outside Can Improve Your Mental Health
Researchers Jo Barton and Jules Pretty of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex in Essex, England, authored a multistudy analysis to assess the amount of outdoor exercise that’s required to improve mental health. There were 1,252 participants involved in the studies who were analyzed. Barton and Pretty found that in just five minutes of outdoor activity, the participants had improved moods and a greater sense of self-esteem. Just five minutes of outside time provided a huge mental health benefit.
How Can You Log More Hours Outdoors?
We know it’s incredibly healthy for the body and mind to spend more time outside. However, if you work an eight-hour day, and sleep eight hours each night, more than two-thirds of your day is likely taking place indoors.
With the hectic pace of life and all of our grownup responsibilities, it’s difficult to find practical ways to get out of the house, office or car and into nature. We’ve come up with some easy ways to incorporate more outside time into your days.
1. Take a Morning or Evening Walk
Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual and take a walk first thing in the morning. It’s fun to get out in nature just as the critters are waking up and beginning to scurry around.
If the idea of an extra early morning doesn’t float your boat, try an evening stroll instead. After dinner is a great time to take in the sunset as you walk your neighborhood or take laps around the park.
2. Park Several Blocks Away From Your Office
If you work in the city and drive to the office each day, consider parking in a lot that’s several blocks away. You’ll have the opportunity to gather your thoughts as you’re walking to work. You’ll get some exercise each morning. You’ll likely get to work feeling less rushed and stressed than if you went straight from the driver’s seat to your office chair.
3. Walk to Lunch
Sometimes, without even thinking about it, we decide to go to lunch, hop into our cars and drive to the sandwich shop ― even if it is just a couple of blocks away. If you’ve got an entire hour for lunch, consider walking to a nearby cafe rather than driving. The fresh air and sunshine might do you good.
4. Put a Basket on Your Bike
If you don’t already have a bicycle, pick one up at a yard sale this weekend. Then, buy a nice bike basket to install on the front. You’ll have an ideal grocery-getter. Take your bike, instead of the car on short trips to the market or the drug store. Bring your goods home in your basket.
5. Dine Outdoors
When the weather is mild, consider dining outside when you have the option. If a restaurant offers patio seating, choose to eat outdoors. Often, even on chilly evenings, restaurants will open their patios and put out large space heaters to create a comfortable dining environment outside.
6. Use the Balcony
Do you have a balcony on your home? Do you ever use it? Make an effort to get out on that balcony a few times a week. Enjoy your morning cup of tea on the balcony while you listen to the birds chirping. Spend 10 minutes outside on the balcony before going to bed taking a look at the stars or city lights.
7. Walk Your Dog
Don’t have a dog? Ask your neighbor if you can walk his dog. Many of your friends and neighbors may be too busy to walk your dog every day. So, grab a dog and explore your neighborhood. It’s an excellent way to get out of the house and enjoy the world outside.
8. Plan a Camping Trip
There’s nothing like sleeping under the stars. Even if you’re not into roughing it on the floor of a tent ― you can still enjoy sleeping in nature. Rent an RV for a couple of days and enjoy sleeping in an actual bed at night while you enjoy the outdoors during the day.
Glamping is another option for those who want to embrace the beauty of nature but don’t care to sleep with bugs. Glamping is sort of like camping with all of the nature hikes and campfires, but with sleeping quarters that are much more like a four-star hotel than a four-person tent. Many campsites offer glamping packages featuring beautiful yurts for sleeping, furnished with memory foam beds and shag rugs. A glamping trip may be just right for the nature seeker who is interested in the best of both worlds.
9. Suggest Outdoor Plans
“What do you want to do?” That’s often the question when two friends decide to meet up. While meeting for coffee is convenient, meeting for miniature golf could be a lot more fun and better for your health. Also meeting for an evening walk at the park is another healthy option.
10. Plant a Backyard Garden
Another way to get outside more is to plant a patch of vegetables or herbs in your backyard. You’ll have to go out to regularly water and harvest your crops. Consider some tomato or pepper plants. They’re fairly easy to grow and maintain.
11. Take Up Golf
Golfing is a fun sport that will have you out in the sunshine for hours at a time. If you have a friend who golfs, see if you can tag along. Rent some clubs and enjoy a Saturday morning on the green.
12. Plan a Ski or Sledding Trip
Even in the snowy months, you can still get out and enjoy the sunshine. If you live near the slopes, consider enjoying some of the winter sports and hobbies available. Snowboarding, sledding, skiing and snowshoeing are great options.
13. Host a Backyard Barbecue
Do you have a grill and a few chairs? That’s all you need for a backyard barbecue. Invite your neighbors to bring a potluck dish to share and come over. Grilling out is a great way to enjoy nature and friends while you have dinner.
14. Have a Yard Sale
Getting rid of clutter is wonderful. A yard sale is an excellent way to clean out your closets and get a few hours in the sunshine. You might also make a few bucks selling your books and unused cookware. That sounds like a win-win situation.
The Health Benefits of Being Outside
From stronger physical health and improved mental health to better moods and more quality sleep, there are incredible benefits to spending adequate time outdoors. On this week’s to-do list, consider adding a morning walk, backyard barbecue or a trip to the miniature golf course to help you get a few more hours outside. The time you spend in the beauty of nature will benefit your body, mind, and spirit.
Barton, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Retrieved from: 10.1021/es903183r
Hennessey, F. (2018). Sleep and light exposure. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/blog/sleep-and-light-exposure/
Peters, B. (2018). Expose yourself to morning sunlight for better sleep. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/morning-sunlight-exposure-3973908
Spending time outdoors is good for you, from the Harvard Health Letter. (2010). Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/spending-time-outdoors-is-good-for-you
Vitamin D: What’s the latest? (2015). Retrieved from: http://www.berkeleywellness.com/supplements/vitamins/other-supplements/article/vitamin-d-whats-latest
Walking off depression and beating stress outdoors? Nature group walks linked to improved mental health. (2014). Retrieved from: https://www.uofmhealth.org/news/archive/201409/ walking-depression-and-beating-stress-outdoors-nature-group3