Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors
Jul 08, 2022 - Jennifer DeValue
Over the course of the pandemic, I turned to supplements for my vitamin and sleep deficiencies.
Truth be told, I could have used my parent’s backyard or walked my dog more, but there was always an excuse… My job was super demanding. I could only spend time with my friends online. Setting up my writing career took priority.
When anxiety and stress triggered a bout of insomnia, I turned to elderberry syrup and melatonin gummies. They were my immune booster and sleep aid rolled into one. They were also just a quick, not so cheap fix for a profound problem.
Lately, though, I’ve been opting for the most natural approach to my body’s needs: the outdoors. “Doses of nature” are proven to support our mental and physical wellbeing. Even the simple act of walking through your local green space or forest has countless benefits.
That’s why our summer journal theme is “the great outdoors.” Today’s entry is all about kick-starting your adventures! To help out, I’ve accumulated the top benefits and recreational options you’ll find only in the open air.
As someone with skin the color and sensitivity of wet paper, I can understand the unwillingness of many to soak up the sun. With proper preparation, however, the sun and Mother Nature’s other nuisances should not be a deterrent to enjoying the outdoors.
The following health benefits of being in whatever nature is accessible to you far outweigh the possible risks.
- Vitamin D
Having “vitamin” right there in the name is a bit of a misnomer, seeing that Vitamin D is both a nutrient and hormone. The biggest responsibility of Vitamin D in our bodies is to support our bones and strengthen our muscles. It has also been connected to preventing serious diseases.
- Boosted Immune System
The benefits of the outdoors on our immune systems goes beyond our need for Vitamin D. A recent Japanese study notes that exposure to the essential oils in trees actually boosts the cells in our immune system that are responsible for fighting off infections and even tumors.
- Healthier Air
Regardless of our vacuuming regimes, dust and dander are our constant indoor companions. When we’re outside not only are we closer to the source of our oxygen, but we are also further from the sources of respiratory conditions.
- Lowered Blood Pressure
Being active outside requires a level of movement that we don’t get during indoor exercises. Whether we’re exploring a city or forest, our hearts are pumping just by walking. This is boosted to even higher levels in outdoor sports like soccer, volleyball, and swimming that require us to be in constant movement.
- Overall Microbiome Health
All of the microbes (bacteria, fungi, etc.) that make up our digestive and immune systems rely on our choices to keep us healthy. Being outside exposes us to more of these organisms. Just like how our communities only benefit from diversity, our microbiomes are enhanced by being around a wide array of microorganisms.
Having all come through the stir craziness of lock-down, I don’t have to tell you that going outside positively impacts our mental health. I will, however, tell you why that’s true.
- Balanced Emotional Well-Being
Green environments like parks and forests are commonly associated with better all around regulation of our emotions. For one, nature is known to decrease our stress hormone cortisol. Partaking in outdoor activities can also increase your sense of awe and overall enjoyment of the world around you. A closer connection with nature is sure to help whether you’re seeking feelings of peace or excitement.
- Improved Sleep
The benefits of lowered stress and improved mood have a secondary positive impact on our sleeping cycles. Not only that, but spending time outdoors helps our bodies to regulate a healthy day-and-night cycle. Our body then naturally pumps out melatonin, instead of relying on gummies and pills.
- Restored Focus
Screen fatigue is real, and so is the rejuvenation you’ll find outdoors. Research is actually proving that “doses of nature” boost productivity and concentration. Time spent outside even has a special sway on accomplishing creative and problem-solving tasks.
- Platform for Socialization
You never know who you’ll meet. Joining pick up games or a local hiking MeetUp group has the potential to connect you to people you wouldn’t otherwise get to know. It’s also important to set aside time for loved ones and friends. Outdoor activities and sports are the perfect reason to get together.
So Get Active, Be a Player!
No matter what level of physical prowess you’re starting with, there are tons of options for fully enjoying the outdoors. Our top recommendations at Mind & Motion are:
- Frisbee Golf
- (Beach) Volleyball
Before starting, always take into consideration how intense your desired exercise will be. When playing team sports, make sure to find a welcoming and inclusive group. When exploring a forested or mountainous area, be sure to research your paths ahead of time. Focusing on fun is the only way to obtain all the benefits we covered above. After moving outside make sure to stretch your body on the mat. Through our membership we provide a full body stretch class.
There’s being outside and there’s going into nature. While different, each has its benefits. Pick activities that are fun and exciting for you. If nature is less accessible, then find the closest green space to you.
Benefiting from everything the outdoors has to offer is a matter of choosing your activities wisely. Explore things outside of your comfort zone, but don’t push yourself unnecessarily.
Most anything exercise related you can do indoors, you can do better outdoors. Take advantage of the open air around you whenever possible.