With summer right around the corner, more of us are spending time outdoors. There’s a reason an afternoon at the park lifts your mood and helps melt away stress – being out in nature is good for the soul. But are we spending enough time outside?
While warm weather gives us an incentive to get outdoors, many of us are still opting to spend our days inside. In fact, Americans spend 90% of their lives indoors. We see more nature on our smartphones than we do in real life.
Studies have shown that there are many health benefits to spending time out in nature.
1. Vitamin D
More vitamin D – one of the most obvious health benefits to spending time outdoors. The sun is the best source of this hormone, and having enough vitamin D is essential to a healthy immune system.
Those with low vitamin D levels are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and osteoporosis. Research has also shown that getting enough sunlight can help prevent autoimmune disorders, diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.
You don’t have to spend hours in the sun to get your vitamin D levels up. All you need to do is expose your arms and legs for 10-15 minutes a few days week. Just keep in mind that sunscreen blocks UVB rays, which is what kickstarts vitamin D production.
2. Fresh Air
Here are some ways to get some more fresh air:
- Take your dog for two long walks every day
- Take your lunch outside of the break room
- Take advantage of restaurant outdoor furniture and eat outdoors
- Hit the trail instead of running on the treadmill at the gym
Being outdoors and exercise go hand-in-hand. Whether it’s a walk in the park, hiking or biking, being outdoors gets you moving.
With most of us leading sedentary lifestyles, which contributes to high blood pressure and a shorter lifespan, even a light walk will provide serious health benefits.
And exercising outdoors may be more effective than hitting the gym. Studies have shown that people who exercise outdoors exert more energy than those who run on treadmills. People also enjoy exercising more when they’re outdoors and will consequently do it for longer periods.
4. Better Mental Health
Spending time in nature also has mental health benefits. A study at Standford University found that people who walk for 90 minutes in nature had “decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.”
Being out in nature also lowers cortisol levels, the stress hormone. A group of male students in China who went hiking and camping on their break from school returned with lower cortisol levels than those who spent their time off in the city.
Researchers have also found that spending time outdoors helps improve focus and concentration in children with ADHD.