There are plenty of good reasons why we’ve all been spending more time indoors lately, but we shouldn’t forget that there are plenty of benefits of being outside, too.
A 2019 study found that spending at least 120 minutes per week in green spaces like parks may improve your overall well-being.
“When you’re outdoors, you feel happier, more relaxed, and more focused,” says Dr. John La Puma, M.D., F.A.C.P., who specializes in nature as medicine. “You sit a lot less and move a lot more.”
Need more incentive to get out the door? Here are some benefits of being outside.
1. Relieve stress
“When you’re outdoors in nature, you use your parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest and digest,’ more than your adrenergic nervous system, or ‘fight or flight,'” says La Puma.
“Your attention is also drawn instead of demanded,” he explains.
Researchers have found stress markers like cortisol (a.k.a., the stress hormone) can drop within 20 to 30 minutes of being outside in nature.
And by now, we all know, stress can take a toll on your body.
So, after your next Zoom meeting, instead of diving right back into work, take a quick lap around the block or sit outside and meditate for 10 minutes.
In addition to kicking stress to the curb, taking a break outdoors is a great way to reduce your screen time.
2. Boost your mood
Studies have found that being outside is restorative and can deliver both short-term and long-term mood benefits.
“We fatigue our brains through excessive directed attention of busy lives, which manifests as heightened levels of anxiety and depression,” says Amanda Stemen, M.S., L.C.S.W., a therapist offering urban wilderness experiences. “Green spaces don’t require the same directed attention.”
3. Feel less isolated
Connecting to nature is just that — a sense of connection. And it may potentially decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, according to the American Psychological Association.
Going for an early morning run or doing some yoga in the park are great ways to feel immersed in your surroundings.
4. Space to move
It’s easy to socially distance in parks and green spaces because there’s a lot of room (especially if you have a “cozy” apartment).
“Some healthy ways to get outdoors are to go for a run outdoors rather than on a treadmill, go for a hike with a friend, have a picnic in the park, read a book under a tree, or walk your dog,” says Stemen. “The healthy possibilities to get outdoors are unlimited.”
5. Vitamin D
“Sunlight has the benefits of helping you produce vitamin D3, which helps improve calcium absorption,” says La Puma, which many studies have confirmed.
This, in turn, can help keep your muscles, teeth, and bones strong.
“However, you only need 15 minutes three times a week to manufacture enough vitamin D.”
So don’t forget to wear sunscreen to reduce your risk of sunburn and skin damage.
You can do pretty much any workout outdoors, from streaming a HIIT class for your own private boot camp to lifting weights into the backyard.
Now go outside and play!