Gone are the days when your mother told you to go play outside, but as it turns out, mom was right. The outdoors are a great place to be and not just because it’s beautiful. The outdoors provide physical and mental health benefits that you don’t want to miss. However, you need to step out the door fully prepared for the elements.
How the outdoors can benefit your health:
Improved physical stamina and strength
The outdoors encourage you to be active. Whether it’s taking a walk or going for a bike ride, you tend to move more when you're outside. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a day reading a book in the backyard. But you won’t accidentally spend hours on the couch binging your favorite streaming service if you’re outside.
Getting outside also forces your body to work a little harder because you’re walking on uneven terrain, swinging your arms more, and propelling your body forward in ways that you don’t when in the house.
There also seems to be a connection between the respiratory system and the outdoors. A 2016 study found that people with more green space in their neighborhoods were 34 percent less likely to die from respiratory diseases. So breathe deep when you step into Mother Nature.
Relax the mind and body and improve mental health
Numerous studies over the years have found a connection between mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression, and access to green space (outdoors). Over and over the evidence suggests that access to the outdoors reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.
If you don’t have a mental health disorder, getting outside can still benefit your mental health. A 2021 study found that spending more time in green space helped reduce stress levels during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Use the outdoors to relax and manage the stress that’s part of everyday life.
The outdoors work in a couple of ways to help you sleep better. First, if you’re outside, you’re more likely to be active. Naturally, the more active you are, the more tired you feel at night.
Second, sunlight helps regulate the sleep cycle. Blue wave light, like the light from the sun that filters through the atmosphere, suppresses sleep hormones. As natural light begins to fade, your sleep hormones get released in increasing amounts so that you feel tired when it gets dark.
Caution — sunlight isn’t the only place where you run into blue light. Many electronic devices like phones, laptops, and TVs can give off blue light too. Looking at electronic devices after dark can suppress sleep hormones, interfering with the sleep cycle. Try to put away your devices a few hours before bed to keep yourself on track for a good night’s rest.
Avoid getting sick
The outdoors offers the ultimate in air circulation. That moving air greatly reduces your chances of contracting airborne illnesses. So, again, breathe deeply because the outdoors are good for you.
Keep up your vitamins
Your body makes vitamin D using sunlight. Lack of time outside is one reason many people have a vitamin D deficiency. However, all it takes is 15 minutes outside to spark vitamin D production to keep yourself healthy and strong.
Tips for spending time outdoors safely
You were made for the outdoors, but you need to take a few precautions to enjoy your outside time safely.
- Check the weather. Weather conditions can change fast. If there’s a small chance of rain, wind, or snow, plan accordingly.
- Apply sunscreen. Whether you’re outside for 15 minutes or two hours, you need sunscreen to prevent UV rays from damaging your skin. Skin Resource.MD’s Essential Solar Protector is an excellent option. It’s broad-spectrum sunscreen (blocks UVA and UVB rays), SPF 47, moisturizing, and reef safe. There’s also a tinted sunscreen, Hyaluronic Facial Solar Protector, that can take the place of foundation and protect you from the sun. It, too, is hydrating and reef safe.
- Stay hydrated. Your body typically works harder when you’re outside. Keep a water bottle with you or in your car so you can avoid hydration by sipping water throughout the day.
- Let someone know where you’re going. If you’re hiking or planning on a longer outdoor adventure, let someone know your route and what time you plan to be back.
You need the outdoors for your mental and physical health. Spend a little time outside every day, but make sure to apply sunscreen, check the weather, and stay hydrated. Let someone know where you’re going if you’ll be hitting the trails or going farther afield. Most of all, enjoy your time in the refreshing outdoors.