How much time do you spend outside every day? For many working Americans, the answer is, ‘Not a lot.’
Think about it: you wake up in the morning, get ready and head to your car to commute. You spend hours behind the wheel — 290 per year on average, in fact. Then, you spend the rest of the day at work until you get back in your car, head home and relax, likely inside of your abode.
As easy as it is to get into this habit, it’s vital to add more outside time to your routine. Yes, the siren songs of the sofa are loud and clear, but you will benefit in the following five ways with just a little fresh air. Spending time outside everyday will:
- Reduce Stress
There’s more to a beautiful landscape than, well, the look of it. It turns out that surrounding yourself in nature can reduce stress.
A study published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning looked at healthy adults in Scotland who answered questions as to what stressed them out at home and work. They measured respondents’ cortisol levels to see how stressed they really were.
On top of that, they compared each person’s answers and stress levels to the amount of greenery — parks, forests, woods and other natural elements — that could be found where each person lived.
Those with the lowest levels of cortisol — the lower the better, in terms of stress — lived in the greenest areas. They also reported in the survey they felt less stress than others who didn’t live in such nature-rich environments. Double-win for spending time outside and in nature!
- Make Exercise More Fun
Yes, you read that right: if you like exercising or want to carve out more time to do it, then heading outdoors will give you a two-for-one bonus. That’s because working out in nature, surrounded by lush green foliage, makes your workout feel easier.
A study conducted in 2010 found participants had fewer mood swings and felt like they were exerting less if they cycled in front of a green screen. Those in front of red and gray screens did not feel as great about their sweat sessions. Now, imagine how great they’d have felt if the green screen was real-life greenery.
- Refresh Your Mind
Have you ever stood at the base of a mountain, the edge of a canyon or even on the coast of an ocean and thought, “Wow?” That sensation of awe gives your brain a breath of fresh air, which is especially important for today’s overworked population.
Of course, not everyone lives next door to majestic mountains or cerulean oceans. Fortunately, just spending time outside can give your mind a break, usher in a new perspective and perhaps even boost your creativity. If you work in an artsy industry, a walk outside could be all you need for a fresh idea.
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- Protect Your Eyes
All that time spent in front of a screen can have serious side effects on your body. Aside from tension in the back and shoulders and an achy “tech neck,” you might experience strain on your eyes.
Spending time outside can help counteract all that. Multiple studies have been conducted to see the effects of nature on eyesight. One found that schoolchildren who spent time outside at recess experienced the onset of short-sightedness more slowly. To that end, progression of short-sightedness slowed down in children who spent time outside, too.
- Possibly Fight Cancer
Research into this is still new, but some studies have led researchers to believe time spent outside can boost the body’s production of proteins that fight cancer.
This is especially true of time spent in lush, green forests, which is why it’s particularly interesting that areas of Japan known for this very type of landscape have lower mortality rates from many types of cancers, even after scientists add controls for such things as residents’ smoking habits, incomes and lifestyle choices.
If That’s Not Enough…
There’s clearly so much to gain by spending time outdoors. But if the physical benefits aren’t enough, think of all the fun you can have in the fresh air. Whether you’re walking the dog, biking, skating, hiking or swimming, you’re sure to find something to do outside that you love.
When it’s something you love, you won’t need any reason to partake: you’ll just have fun and reap all the benefits. To us, that sounds like a win-win.