We all know that it feels great to go outside. But what you may not know is that being outdoors actually delivers critical health benefits (some of which you can’t achieve indoors.) So, if you need a little push to get out of your cozy bed this winter, keep reading for benefits and 7 reasons you need to get outside.
7 Ways Being Outdoors Boosts Your Health:
1. You’ll Absorb Crucial Vitamins
In order to fire on all cylinders, your body needs Vitamin D. Among other crucial functions, this vitamin helps you absorb calcium (which keeps your bones strong and helps prevents osteoporosis) and phosphorus (which helps your body grow, maintain and repair its tissues and cells). And while some foods contain trace amounts of vitamin D, 90% of our recommended absorption comes from exposure to sunlight. Of course, you can supplement vitamin D, but outdoor exposure is optimal for your body’s health. Thankfully, just a few minutes in the sun can go a long way towards maintaining your vitamin D levels, so even a five-minute coffee break outside can make a major impact and is a good reason to go outside.
2. You Can Reduce Inflammation
Today, we know that inflammation is the source of many problems in your body: it has been linked to digestive concerns, autoimmune diseases, and even certain cancers. There are several ways, including dietary changes, that we can fight inflammation, but it turns out that one of the easiest—and most enjoyable—methods is by spending time in nature.
In fact, studies in the Journal of Biomedical and Environmental Sciences show that both young students and elderly individuals were able to reduce their inflammation levels by getting outside. And, as it turns out, where they went mattered. The students who spent time in a forest, instead of in an outdoor urban environment, enjoyed more dramatic inflammation reductions. Trail hike, anyone?
3. You’ll Get Sick Less Often
When you head outdoors, you’re likely to encounter plants, and plants produce airborne-chemicals called phytoncides. While chemicals in the air may sound scary, these babies are actually great for you: research shows that breathing in phytoncides helps your body produce more white blood cells. And, since white blood cells help us fight off infection, getting outdoors is a great way to protect yourself from colds, flus and other nasty illnesses. Bonus boost? Sunlight also ignites your T cells, which play a crucial role in the immune system.
4. Your Energy Levels Will Sky Rocket
If you’re trying to cut ties with that 3 p.m. cup of java, all you need to do is step outside. According to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, spending 20 minutes outdoors—even if you just sit there and breathe in the fresh air—gives you an energy boost equivalent to the jolt you get from a single cup of coffee. And all without those awful caffeine jitters which is a great reason to go outside!
5. You’ll Be More Active—and Love Every Minute of It
As soon as you step outside, you’re likely to start walking. And, while it’s not a HIIT workout, walking is an easy (and free) way to increase your activity level. Plus, not only is getting outside conducive to getting exercise, research suggests that green environments boost your energy (see above). Now, what does that mean for your workouts? You’ll have more energy, so you’ll keep moving for a lot longer than you might on a treadmill inside. So, get outside and you’ll find it a lot easier to snag those 10,000 steps each day.
6. Your Mental Health Will be Strengthened
When you go outside, you’ll be exposed to natural light—even on a cloudy day. During the winter months, especially, that exposure is critical. As you bathe in sunlight, you’re building up serotonin (your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemical). Not only will this help you stay calm and increase your positive feelings, it will also help prevent a very common problem associated with shorter winter days—seasonal affective disorder—that can trigger feelings of fatigue, sadness and anxiety. Just think of the outdoors as your all-natural pick-me-up!
7. You’ll Get Your Zzzs
Being outdoors helps your body stick to its natural, optimal sleep cycle. Why? It turns out that, without exposing your eyes to daylight, your body’s internal clock can’t work properly. And, the timing of that light can also make a difference: if you gain exposure to early-morning daylight, you’re more likely to sleep well once you hit the hay at night. Which means that you’ll have more energy the next morning, and you’ll be more likely to head outside…so you can cycle through all the benefits of the great outdoors, once again!