Spending time outdoors has numerous positive effects on your health. It can help you grow stronger, improve various health conditions, and make you feel mentally and physically better.
In this article, we’ll talk about the 10 health benefits of spending time outdoors. Let’s get into it.
Vitamin D, also called the sunshine vitamin, is an essential substance needed by the human body to conduct many different kinds of activities. Spending time in the sunshine can help give you the vitamin D your body needs.
This important vitamin aids in the body’s absorption of certain minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. To manufacture it, your body requires only a small amount of sunlight.
Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency affects a large number of people around the world. Hypovitaminosis D is often caused and exacerbated by lifestyle choices and where you live. For example, diminished outdoor activities and environmental variables like pollution limit exposure to ultraviolet light, reducing vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
In the general population, vitamin D deficiency factors into total mortality, meaning that statistically, you are more likely to die sooner if you don’t get enough sunlight.
Vitamin D helps your bones, blood cells, and immune system function properly. In the summer, simply getting sunlight for 5 to 15 minutes twice or three times per week should be enough to protect you from vitamin D deficiency.
So, spending time outside can help you get the amount of vitamin D your body needs to run smoothly and potentially live longer.
Spending time outdoors can help improve your mood and even give you an energy boost.
Interacting with nature can improve cognition in children with attention deficit issues and individuals with depression. Proximity to green space has been linked to lower levels of stress and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety. Simply being outside can help you be happier, less anxious, and ease symptoms of depression.
Staying indoors can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, but going outside is a great way to get your body moving and stretch and work your muscles. This will help strengthen your muscles, increase your endurance, as well as help improve your overall health.
Exercise is great for your mental health, and getting your body moving also helps improve efficiency in your cardiovascular system, helping your blood deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.
Getting outside and simply walking in your yard or neighborhood can give you more energy to tackle daily activities as your heart and lung health improves.
Many of us are stressed, whether due to temporary or continual stressors in our lives or an individual’s susceptibility to feeling stressed out. Regardless, spending time outdoors can help relieve your stress.
This is because staying out in the greenery, taking a walk through the trees, or simply resting in nature can help release endorphins, also known as the feel-good hormones.
It also helps lower cortisol levels and decreases your heart rate, giving a feeling of relief from all the stress.
Getting outside more often can help you get a better night’s sleep. This is because not only will be out and about outdoors provide your muscles with good exercise, but it will also tire you out.
And while initially, it will energize you, throughout the day, it will wash out the endorphins, giving your brain time to wind down and aiding in sleep.
6. More Connections
Especially if you work from home, your in-person contact with others may be limited. Simply going outdoors increases your opportunities to meet new people and see friends and neighbors.
In many communities, organized activities can be great motivators to step out of your home office and socialize.
Team sports, running clubs, art walks, yoga, movies, or Shakespeare in the park can be great options, and many can be done while social distancing. All of these activities will help you get connected to more people, get more human interaction, and be more sociable.
According to the American Psychological Association, being outdoors in a natural environment can help improve your ability to think. This includes improving your working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attention control.
However, this only applies to time spent in natural environments, as exposure to urban environments is linked to attention deficit.
Children’s cognitive development is aided by green spaces near schools, while self-control in children is aided by having green scenery near their homes. Adults living in public housing units with greater green space performed better on attention tests than those living in units with less access to natural areas.
If you live in the city, head to an urban park with lots of trees and hiking trails if possible. Or, better yet, take a day trip to a more rural area.
Spending time outdoors can help improve many illnesses and conditions, and it may even help you heal faster.
Illness and surgery are unpleasant and can be frightening. This can trigger stress and slow recovery.
However, researchers have discovered that patients who spent time outside during their recuperation were able to recover while relying less on painkillers. They also had fewer problems during recovery and spent less time in the hospital.
Patients who are exposed to nature or even just pictures of nature have been shown to have increased pain thresholds and need fewer painkillers.
9. Feel Better About Yourself
Spending time outdoors and engaging in activities such as exercise and gardening can help improve your self-esteem, give you a sense of accomplishment, and make you feel better about yourself — regardless of the quantity of exercise or intensity of the activity.
In one study, the smallest quantity of movement — only five minutes — was linked to the largest gain in both self-esteem and happiness. These findings showed an immediate benefit from the moment the exercise began. Men and women of all ages and health conditions were found to have the same results.
Green settings, in general, had a beneficial influence on both variables. Still, even bigger gains were recorded when water was present, such as near a pool, pond, river, ocean, or lake.
Mentally ill participants demonstrated the greatest gains in self-esteem after participating in exercise outdoors.
Sunlight stimulates T-cells, which fight infection, and can boost your immune response. Additionally, increased production of vitamin D and phytoncides, which are plant-based organic compounds in the air, can help prepare your body to fight off viruses and other diseases.
Phytoncides are antibacterial and antifungal compounds that aid in the battle against illness in plants. When we inhale these chemicals, our bodies respond by raising the number and activity of natural killer cells, also known as NK cells.
These cells in our bodies attack tumor- and virus-infected cells. Hence, spending time outdoors in nature may also strengthen your body to defend itself against harmful diseases.
Things to Keep in Mind
While there are many benefits of spending time outdoors, there are a few things you need to remember when you head outside.
Wear long-sleeved clothes when possible, and put on adequate sunscreen. Also, spray on bug repellant, especially if you’re headed into the woods where there may be ticks or will be out after dusk when mosquitoes take over.
Do not go off into the wilderness without some measure to call for help if you get into danger, especially if you’re hiking or camping alone. Many national parks and regions popular with adventurous hikers have little to no cell reception, which may be part of the appeal, but if you go into these areas, consider bringing a small mirror you can use as a signal or even flares.
Even if you’re hiking just a few miles from civilization, always carry a first aid kit, water, and snacks. Also, consider bringing a snakebite kit if you will be in an area with venomous snakes.
It is best not to go into the wilderness alone, even for a short hike. Take someone with you if you twist an ankle, are bitten or stung by wildlife, experience heatstroke, or lose your way.
Two heads are better than one when trying to find the trail again or recognizable landmarks. And if you slip or fall and do something to your body that will show up on an X-ray later, having a hiking partner that can help you back to the car will help you get to medical treatment or that X-ray machine sooner.
Wear clothing that is suitable for going outside for activities like hiking or camping. Dress in layers if you start your hike in the morning or if it will extend into the evening. It may be hot at midday, but you may need extra protection during the cooler parts of the day. And always wear shoes that fit well and have thick soles with good traction.
Before you leave civilization or the comfort of a strong Wi-Fi connection, check the local forecast. Spikes of extreme heat or cold or the possibility of rain, tornados, or floods should be taken seriously. Otherwise, you may get stuck in unpleasant or dangerous weather without proper protection.
If the forecast shows something that may affect your hike or camping trip, stow warm clothes in your pack, bring extra water, and consider rescheduling if the weather report predicts dangerous conditions.
Healthwise, there are many great reasons to spend time outdoors and experience nature. Especially if you spend much of your days in an office chair, it’s time to break up your sedentary lifestyle and take a breath of fresh air outside. Even if you don’t leave your yard, you’ll feel much better.