When you were a kid, you probably couldn’t wait to get outside and play. Now that you’re an adult, where do you find the time? Why should you prioritize fresh air when your current reality consists of things like work and bills?
It turns out that heading to the great outdoors can benefit your mental and physical well-being significantly. You handle your daily tasks with greater ease when you feel better and have more energy for what you want to do. Here are five health benefits of going outside that should have you prioritizing fresh air and sunshine.
Society spent the past two years surviving a pandemic, and it isn’t over yet. It only makes sense to do everything you can to improve your immune function. Surprisingly enough, hugging a tree could do the trick.
The magic lies in phytoncides, chemical substances that trees and other plants emit for defense. When you inhale them, it kicks your immune system into higher gear.
Researchers investigated participants in the Japanese practice of forest-bathing. Spending as little as one night camping increased the number and activity in natural killer cells for up to 30 days. These cells seek out and fight invading germs.
Another factor to keep in mind is that outdoor activities are considered safer when avoiding infectious diseases. Although it’s more challenging as the weather cools, consider planning backyard gatherings and selecting such activities for date night. You’ll get an immunity boost while lowering your risk of encountering a harmful germ.
What is vitamin D? Even the name is a bit misleading. This vital substance isn’t technically a vitamin but rather a hormone required to absorb calcium from your gut into your bloodstream. It’s also something many Americans need to get more of — up to three-quarters of teens and adults are deficient in this nutrient.
Brittle bones prone to breakage aren’t the only problems you’ll face if you’re among those deficient. Research links low levels of vitamin D to disorders as diverse as heart disease and cancer.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a mint on supplements. Your body produces this hormone naturally with sufficient sun exposure. You only need 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to your legs, arms, abdomen and back a few times per week. The rest of the time, you should slather on the sunscreen.
You know that exercise benefits your health in many ways. However, dragging yourself to the gym can seem like, well, a drag. The place always smells faintly of damp socks, someone always takes your favorite elliptical and the televisions play nothing but depressing mainstream news stories of doom and gloom. Who can blame you for preferring your couch?
Getting outside inspires you to move your body without it feeling like a chore. Instead of hitting the treadmill, go for a hike — you won’t notice the sweat dripping when you lose yourself in the vista. Even feeling the breeze as you sit on your front stoop could inspire you to stroll around the block.
Plus, you can find tons of recreation — for free. You don’t need to pay a dime when you take your ball to the local court for a game of horse with your kids. You can seek professional frisbee golf courses or merely pack up some discs and a few baskets and head to your nearby green belt. Even backyard barbecues inspire horseshoes and volleyball, not just sitting around with a brewski in hand.
Do you work on the computer all day? If so, you might have significant eye strain. Plus, you could be increasing your child’s chances of myopia if you don’t balance all that homeschool screentime with active outdoor play.
Research from Canada shows that a child’s risk of nearsightedness drops by 14% when you provide one additional hour of outdoor play per week. Part of the reason might be the exposure to UVB rays outside, triggering the release of dopamine in the retina and vitamin D throughout the body. The combination of these factors seems to prevent myopia.
According to research, even gazing at pictures of natural scenes helps decrease feelings of stress. It’s even better to immerse yourself in the great outdoors.
The mechanisms for how the outdoors improve mental health are multifold. One exciting and emerging area of research deals with how getting moving outside changes your intestinal microbiota. This beneficial bacteria system sends signals to other parts of your body, including instructions to produce more serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with decreased stress and improved mood.
If you want to increase your overall well-being, why not dine alfresco, followed by a walk around the block? Doing so could help you reap these five health benefits of going outside.