7 Science-Backed Health Benefits To Spend Time Outdoors

7 Science-Backed Health Benefits To Spend Time Outdoors

If you want your body to function properly, get outside. Try just 15 minutes a day! Here are 7 compelling reasons to spend time in nature and nurture yourself, play, walk the dog or just hang out on a yoga mat outside.

1) Improved Sleep

Are you over counting sheep or surfing facebook countless hours, while everyone else is getting their beauty rest getting old? Poor sleep is often caused by poor sleep patterns (aka Habits).  Our sleep patterns are regulated by an internal body clock called the circadian rhythm.  Our circadian rhythms are naturally tied to the sun’s schedule.  Spending too much time inside – away from natural light and with increased exposure to artificial light, can alter our circadian rhythms, (thus disrupting our sleep patterns).   Research has shown that “individuals who are blind from birth frequently have difficult with their sleep-wake cycle because of the complete lack of environmental light cues.” Additionally,  “those who perform shift-work or travel frequently are also subject to having their natural circadian rhythms disrupted.” Early morning exposure to sunlight has been shown to help recalibrate these sleep cycles.  A few consecutive days outside (like backpacking the Appalachian Trail!) will get the job done much faster.

Hence, if your sleep schedule is keeping you from enjoying a productive & fulfilled like, GET OUTSIDE.

 

2) Vitamin D

Sun supplies us with best source of Vitamin D and is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system.  Those who don’t get enough Vitamin D are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.  Getting enough sunlight has also been linked with the prevention of diabetes, auto immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease.  As always, it’s better to get Vitamin D from natural sources- supplementing can be ineffective, and even unsafe.

 

3) Eye Health

Getting outside can improve your eye health.  Really this should count for two distinct reasons:

  1. Preventing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), the term used to describe eye problems caused by staring at a screen close to your face for prolonged periods.  Do you work on a computer for a living?  Do you watch TV when you’re not working?  If so, you’re at risk of developing the symptoms associated with CVS: blurred vision, double vision, dry/red eyes, eye irritation, headaches, and neck or back pain.  Getting outside and focusing on objects not two feet from your face can help to prevent and even reverse these symptoms.
  2. Artificial Light Provokes Nearsightedness.  New research is showing that our ever increased exposure to artificial light may be having a negative impact on nearsightedness.  A 2007 study found that, “among American
    children with two myopic parents, those who spent at least two hours per day outdoors were four times less likely to be nearsighted than those who spent less than one hour per day outside.”  Artificial light is problem, natural light is the solution.

4) Grounding

Grounding (or earthing) is just bare skin contact on a natural surface (dirt, sand, etc.).  The theory states that because the earth is negatively charged- and has a greater negative charge than your body- we absorb earth’s electrons.  The rubber soles of our shoes prevent this absorption of electrons from occurring.  According to a study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, grounding can have an intense anti-inflammatory and energizing effect on the body. My home is all bare down to the concrete foundation to omit natural energy into my home and keep us all grou
nded.

If you want to feel the energy of earth, get outside (and take your shoes off).

5) Clean Air

Someone telling you to get some “fresh air” is more than a subtle way of saying “go away”.   As it turns out, outdoor pollution is bad for your health, but indoor pollutants are far worse.  The EPA New England states that indoor pollutants are no
rmally 2 to 5 (and up to 100) times higher than outdoor pollutants.  And according to the California Air Resources Board “indoor air-pollutants are 25-62% greater than outside levels and this difference poses a serious risk to health.”  Such health risks include heart disease, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and asthmatic attacks.

If you don’t like inhaling poison, get outside.

Thought you might like to know what type of houseplants aid in cleaner air too!  Aloe, snake plant, golden pathos  and chrysanthemum.  

6) Exercise

YES— Movement (aka Exercise is NEEDED)… not just to lose weight but for health and strewth- read on! Let’s face it, it’s hard to get outside without exercising.  Even a light walk has immense health benefits, especially contrasted with sitting on a couch.  Sitting too much results in your metabolism dropping and that means fat burning capacity is decreased,  bone density decreases, increased blood pressure, and a shortened life span.  Conversely, exercise can help prevent or improve heart disease, strokes, type II diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and a host of psychological disorders.  Exercising outdoors has benefits over the gym: people who run outside exert more energy than those on treadmills (and same for cyclists), people enjoy it more, and consequently, will do it for longer periods.

If you want to live longer, get outside.

Bonus: If the idea of exercise makes you want to vomit, science supports the benefits of “non-exercise activity” and its effects on boosting metabolism.  Get outside and move at your leisure.

7) Psychological Health

Last but certainly not least is the massively beneficial effects getting outside can have on our mental wellbeing.  Spending time in nature has been linked to improved attention spans (short and long term), boosts in serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter) and shows increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love (whereas urban environments do the same for fear and anxiety).

If you’re feeling down, get outside

 

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18047442

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793347/

http://www.umich.edu/~jlabpsyc/pdf/2008_2.pdf

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20021205/unraveling-suns-role-in-depression

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12468415

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