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Physical & Mental Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

Just about 20 minutes spent outdoors can positively impact our health and wellness. Yet, most of us spend too much time before computer screens at work, and the television or smartphones or tabs when we return home. This in spite of the knowledge that spending too much time indoors is not good for humans. Scientific researches have stated time and again that nature is beneficial, probably essential forhuman health. Time spent outside has physical as well as mental benefits, which in turn has a positive effect on our productivity.

Physical Health Benefits

Both adults & children find nature pleasing irrespective of the culture they come from. Healthy green environment reduces stress, which has a positive impact on our body. What we see, hear and experience in the green environment affects not just our mood, but also the working of our nervous, endocrine, digestive and immune systems.

Increase in Vitamin D

​Vitamin D is an essential nutrition for humans. It helps to absorb calcium, the building block for bones. People with Vitamin D deficiency face various health problems like heart disease, diabetes,osteoporosis, dementia, stroke, auto-immune disorders, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and cancer in some cases. A simple solution for the health issues arising from lack of/low Vitamin D is the sunlight. So, boost up your Vitamin D level by getting ampleoutdoor exercises

Better Sleep

Most of us have trouble falling asleep till well after midnight. This is because we spend too much time indoor and have altered circadian cycles, our internal body clock that tells us that the sun has set or risen. Consequently, our natural sleep patterns have been disrupted. The remedy is simple – we need to go out and expose ourselves to sunlight. It will reset our natural circadian rhythm and restore our sleep pattern.

Reduces Inflammation

The natural environment can help people with inflammation, which may cause depression, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. Research has shown that time spent outdoors may reduce the cause as well as the symptoms of inflammation. But research is still at its initial stages and need more study to link the two.

Protects Vision

Spending too much time in front of desktops,laptops, tablets and smartphones has led to eye health risk, and increasing cases of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Blurred vision, dry eyes, double vision, headaches and neck or back pain are some of the symptoms of CVS. These eye health risks can be avoided by reducing screen time. Even small breaks like looking away from screen for few seconds will make a difference.

Another risk of spending too much time indoor is “nearsightedness”. It can be cured by spending time outdoors, away from artificial light.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Poor diet and overweight increases the risk of several health condition like high blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes. But the good news is that spending some time outdoors and doing moderate exercises like walking, hiking and cycling can be effective in reducing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Reducing Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

Spending time outdoor and using the time in some form of physical exercise reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. As per the American Heart Association “our body only needs 75 minutes of strenuous exercise and 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week” for a healthy heart and less chance of getting a stroke.

Boost Immune System

Studies suggest that a ‘walk in the woods’ is not just recreational but also an immune boosting exercise. Treks or hiking in the natural environment has a positive impact on human immune system, which have a role in mitigating viral attacks and other diseases.

Preventing Cancer

Regular walks in the outdoors – at least 150 minutes per week – may reduce the risk of getting cancer or reducing chances of recurrence. It’s a tall claim, but doctors are increasingly suggesting that spending time outdoors results in health benefits like weight loss, reduced inflammation and increase in vitamin D intake – all of which are linked to reduction in cancer risk.

Mental Health Benefits

Being outdoor in the midst of nature,reduces stress &fear and also increases pleasant feelings. The natural environment improves our emotional wellbeing as well as our physical wellbeing.

Reduced Stress

Nature is a wonderful stressbuster. Every time you feel overwhelmed by the volume of work in office or home, difficult colleagues or boss, or other issues, you just need to take a walk outside to clear your head. The problem will look insignificant and you can deal with a stressful situation more easily. Increased stress can lead to health problems like heart diseases, stroke, anxiety and other psychological issues. So, spend time outdoors to de-stress, your body will thank you.

Fight Depression and Anxiety

The natural environment plays a crucial role in improving your mental health. Several studies have been published to stress the remedial influence of nature on people suffering from depression & anxiety. Taking regular walks in the outdoors helps persons with symptoms of depression by immersing them in nature’s beauty. It also reduces a person’s chances of becoming depressed.Similarly, the sights and sounds of nature, along with physical exercise, has a positive impact on a person’s mood and reduces the symptoms of anxiety.

Improves Mood

Time spent outdoors increases Vitamin D intake and serotonin levels, which improves our overall wellbeing. Studies state that spending time in natural light may result in higher self-esteem and good moods, when accompanied by outdoor exercise.

Runner’s High

Runner’s high is a feel-good phenomenon that occurs when our body releases endorphins during exercise. Endorphins are chemicals responsible for mental states and define our mood. This psychological phenomenon can be used to alleviate the causes and symptoms of stress and anxiety. 

Decreases Mental Fatigue

Heading outdoors is a great way to remove mental fatigue, when the brain wants to normalize after long session of stimuli from smartphones, office environment, traffic, etc.

Productivity Benefits

Being in nature imparts physical wellness, mental wellness and also motivates productivity in certain specific fields.

Improves Creativity

Wordsworth,William Blake, Keats, Thoreau, Nietzsche, Frank Lloyd Wright, Cezanne and Emerson are just a few creative minds who have awed us with their work. Their creativity got a fillip from mother nature, which they took in abundance from the great outdoors. Many studies have shown enhanced creativity and cognitive functioning in participants after spending time in nature.

Improves Concentration

Studies suggest that taking short walks in between work, especially those that are problem-solving in nature, improves concentration and better performance by participants.

Get Set Go

The more time you spend in nature, more the benefits you accrue to your health and wellness. So, get started now. If you feel it’s not possible to go out every day, think again it may not be as difficult as you envisaged. Take a different perspective – split the outdoor to (1) the ‘greater outdoors’ and (2) the ‘lesser outdoors’. A visit to the greater outdoors will require a bit of planning, while the lesser outdoor is a place nearby. Enjoying the lesser outdoor may mean:

  • an alternative route to work
  • walking your dog to a new/different place
  • family outing with kids to green environment rather than to a gadget-oriented area
  • taking daily jogging or cycling to slightly further away from original destination
  • taking lunch breaks in the park and not at the office or a restaurant
  • conducting walking meetings rather than traditional meetings in office

The bottom line is that you are never too far or too busy to go out and enjoy the natural green outdoors. So, turn off the TV, put away your laptop or take a break from social media to take that walk outside. Your physical and mental health depends on it. Nothing matters more than your happiness and personal wellbeing.

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