The Surprising Health Benefits of Spending Time OutdoorsIn an ever-increasing urbanized world, where technology firmly entwines with our daily lives, the call of the great outdoors is often overlooked. The possibility of adventures under a vast, limitless sky, the sense of freedom, the entertainment that nature provides can sometimes appear distant and irrelevant in our instant, high-speed, highly digitised world. However, recent studies highlight the vital importance of spending time outdoors and its sneaky array of health benefits, making the outdoors much more than just a pleasant escape from our indoor routines.
Firstly, connecting with nature is a fantastic way to boost our physical health. The most evident benefit comes from increased physical activity. Hiking, biking, running or simply strolling in the park can help maintain a healthy weight. Regular outdoor exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. It strengthens our bones and muscles and boosts our overall energy levels. Indeed, our bodies are designed to move, and the outdoors present a myriad of enjoyable ways to achieve a daily dose of physical activity.
Secondly, spending time outdoors can significantly improve mental health. Studies suggest activities like forest bathing, the practice of spending time in wooded areas to enhance health, wellness, and happiness, reduces stress and feelings of aggression. Walking through a green space can lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, whilst a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders links nature exposure to reduced depression and anxiety.
Being outdoors also encourages mindfulness and meditation. The Japanese have a term for this: Shinrin-yoku, or 'forest bathing', literally translates as taking in the forest atmosphere. This practice involves immersing oneself fully in the natural surroundings, focusing on the rustling of the leaves, the chirping of the birds, or the gentle touch of the wind on the face, helping us achieve a serene state of mind.
Outdoor time has a profound impact on cognitive health. It aids in improving attention span and concentration and boost creative problem-solving skills. Playing outdoors has proven specifically useful for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Furthermore, children's behaviour drastically improves if they have access to 'green spaces', as this environment facilitates social interaction, stimulation and exploration.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked health benefits of being outdoors is the Vitamin D we acquire naturally from sunlight. This essential vitamin regulates the calcium and phosphate levels in our body, ensuring the health of our bones, teeth, and muscles. Higher vitamin D levels have been associated with a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis, certain cancers, and heart disease. Although sunscreen remains crucial during peak sun hours, spending short periods in the sun without protection allows our bodies to soak up this 'sunshine vitamin'.
Another unseen benefit of outdoor interaction is the improvement in sleep cycles - often disrupted by the blue light emitted by our digital devices. The natural light our body absorbs outdoors is imperative in establishing a healthy circadian rhythm, critical for maintaining a stable sleep pattern.
Outdoor activity has been shown to improve vision and lower the chance of nearsightedness in children. Research in the Journal of Ophthalmology concludes that exposure to natural light may be crucial during childhood while our eyes are developing.
The great outdoors also offer opportunities for social interaction, often playing a central role in creating close bonds. Camping, hiking or having a picnic allows one to spend quality time with friends and family, improve communication, and build stronger relationships.
Far from being leisurely, time spent outside hugely benefits our physical, mental and emotional health. Therefore, despite our modern, fast-paced lives, finding time to go outside, be it a walk around the park, a run in the woods, or a lazy afternoon in the garden, are activities which deserve our attention. They are an investment in our health, and a gateway to personal wellbeing.
Therefore, it is crucial to integrate outdoor time into our routines. Even small changes, such as walking or cycling to work, taking lunch breaks in the park, or dedicating the weekends to explore the outdoors, can accumulate to significant health benefits over time. By acknowledging the importance of outdoor time, we can harness the opportunity to cultivate healthier bodies, refreshed minds, nou, rished spirits, and deepened social connections.
Spending time outdoors, therefore, isn't merely an entertaining pastime; it is a profound health-giving, and life-enhancing activity. Despite the rapid advancement of technology and urban globalization, the essential human-nature relationship remains significant. The benefits that we receive from spending time outdoors are surprisingly numerous and offer an easy option to enhance overall health and regain our sense of joy and wonderment at the simple beauty of the natural world.
Is this news? I guess not really. Just funny and interesting stuff.